Plants, herbs and their active ingredients
Plants have a defense mechanism against their direct environmental threats that is very complex and they have such an ability to protect themselves against diseases that people have been studying their mechanism and use for thousands of years. Plant cells structure and human cells structure are very similar and our body can recognize the entire plant structure. When an active ingredient (the life force) is taken from a plant, our body recognizes it, processes it and uses it for its own purpose. Plants are living organisms just like humans and the 4 main similar constituents between plant cells and human cells are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Both also have protein-like structure which allows the body to entirely recognize the healing properties of a given plant and use it to cure itself.
Within one plant, one can find numerous active ingredients, some of which having opposite effects so a vast knowledge of medicinal plants is required before using it especially in terms of dosage. For example, a plant can contain 5 active ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties and 2 active ingredients that induce inflammation. However, using all the plant’s active ingredients may have great anti-inflammatory effects depending on how much we intake. Also, a plant is alive and adapts to its environmental threats because of its innate survival instincts just like humans. When threatened by a virus that is also alive and evolving, a plant will have the capabilities to change and adapt to fight against this evolving virus.
Origin of modern drugs
Modern medicine has copied the biological functions of plants but the main difference is that a chemically-made remedy uses typically one specific active ingredient of the plant against which a virus or bacteria can easily become resistant as opposed to the 100 active ingredients of a given plant and as a result, the drug has to be modified, or sometimes, the original plant is used again because only the plant in a whole could evolve at the same time as the virus or bacteria and develop new means to fight it. This is also the reason why sometimes, 10 drugs need to be administered for one single condition while the proper plant would contain them all at once. Another difference also is that a plant cannot be patented and requires clinical trials to prove its efficiency that cost millions of dollars; meanwhile, a chemically-made drug using only one plant’s active ingredient can be patented and because of the pharmaceuticals means, a clinical trial can easily be performed with the newly developed drug.
The advantage of herbal remedies and the dangers of do-it-yourself
When understanding the defense mechanism of a plant, we can easily deduct that plants can have beneficial effects on us when used wisely and as a whole because they can help with a disease without inducing side-effects, but they can also have a devastating effect, just like a pharmaceutical drug that we would not typically intake without a prescription, first of all because it is forbidden by law, but also because it is dangerous.
In the US, herbal remedies, medicinal plants and herbal supplements can easily be accessed in stores because they are regarded as food supplements, not remedies or drugs and suppliers are not allowed to make claims for these remedies. However, depending on one’s condition, herbal remedies and their active ingredients can have beneficial results but also devastating ones, and only a qualified herbalist could ponder whether a remedy is good or not, depending on the patient, his condition, the cause of his condition, his age, weight, other drug intake and lifestyle. Indeed, just like regular drugs can interact with each other, herbal remedies can interact with each other as well and interact with drugs. Herbal and natural remedies does not mean it is always good for us and without consequence, far from it, unless we have done our research or consulted a qualified practitioner that will guide us with dosage, interactions and contra-indications. For example, helichrysum essential oil is a very powerful essential oil to treat various conditions. However, it is also a blood thiner and people already on blood thiner medications should avoid it or use it carefully to avoid hemorrhagia. The healing properties of plants and herbs are very powerful and probably stronger than any given drugs for the facts explained earlier but when taken internally, it is wise to always research about their active ingredients, chemistry, use and consequences and seek help of a qualified herbalist, naturopath or doctor that will be able to determine the cause of our problem and redirect us to the proper remedy. Nature can provide our body with everything it needs and it would be arrogant to believe the opposite when humans have been using its powers for thousands of years so let’s protect it and cherish it in a smart way. At last, herbal remedies have become a marketing tool for companies that saw a huge lucrative market in this field. However, not all “natural remedies” or are actually 100% natural and it is very important to read the ingredients, origin, company ethics before purchasing an herbal remedy that if rogue, might work as well as hot water and give Nature a bad name! The same applies for all organic products.
This article was inspired by the book The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs, by Dr. Leslie Taylor, ND.