Herbs and Modern Medicine
Some examples of modern day medicines based on ancient herbal medicine wisdom can be found as close as our own medicine cabinet. Salicylic acid, a compound that is similar to the active ingredient in aspirin, was originally derived from white willow bark. The opium poppy gave us morphine and codeine as well as laudanum, a tranquilizer used during Victorian times. And Vincristine from the periwinkle is used to treat certain types of cancer.
Before the discovery of antibiotics, Echinacea was one of the most widely used of herbal medicines in the United States. It was prescribed to fight a variety of infections and today it has been proven by researchers to boost the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells that help fight disease.
Old Traditions Return
Today, there seems to be a growing trend to return to the old but proven ways of herbal medicines, as many people are looking for an alternative route to traditional medicines and cures. They may feel that modern conventional medicine isn't helping them or that the treatment may be too expensive or they may simply opt for a more natural holistic approach.
There are thought to be well over 700,000 plants on earth and only a tiny fraction of them have ever been studied to determine their medical and healing properties as herbal medicines. Modern science breaks down the whole of the plant to find the basic active ingredient, and then isolates it for use in potential drug development, while excluding the rest of the plant. Herbalists, on the other hand, will look at the entire plant and realize that the medicinal and healing properties come from the interactions of all the parts working as a whole, and that many of these interactions, while still a mystery, are an important part of herbal medicine.