Plants are VERY useful!
Plants are some of the most complex organisms on the planet, and human existence has always been completely dependent on them. We rely upon plants for handy things like oxygen, food, energy, medicine, building materials, textiles, etcetera.
Herbs are the oldest and most widely used form of medicine/drugs on Earth
Since the time of the first tribes, the botanical world has been our primary source of medicine.i Human physiology has evolved in sync with the nutrients and biochemicals provided by the plants in our environment, so it's not very surprising that herbs can have strong effects on our bodies and minds. Roughly 85% of pharmaceuticals are extracted or synthesised from plants.
But do they really work?
Yes! Many plants offer an effective, safe, cost-effective alternative/complement to chemicals. Herbs and superfoods can be used as mood enhancers, energy boosters, relaxants, infection treatments, and as tonics for the heart, liver, brain, kidneys, skin, nervous system, blood, etc - often with much less side effects than those produced by pharmaceutical drugs.
Where's the proof?
Along with thousands of years of experimentation around the world, there is a growing body of modern scientific knowledgeii showing that herbs can play an effective role in a preventative and pro-active approach to healthcare.
Botanical medicine was still the most widely used form of medicine until the early 1900s during the rise of industrial modernity when their use was scorned as 'backwards'. We imagined a techo-utopian future where chemicals would save us from all disease. Since the two great wars of the 20th century there has been widespread adoption of an exclusively chemical approach to the treatment of illnesses in the West.
In most parts of the world the laws which govern herbal medicines make it prohibitively expensive for anybody except major pharmaceutical companies to 'prove' the relative safety or effectiveness of a botanical remedy. And because people can grow their own herbs if they choose to, they're much harder to patent and profit from. The result is that there's little incentive for these tests to be carried out on a large scale, thus many people confuse the relatively small amount of double-blind clinical herb research that's on record with a false notion that someone has proved that herbs “don't work”.
Why are the laws designed to favour the pharmaceutical industry?
In modern times, with an industry making this many billions of dollars seeking to influence political regulation. It's no surprise that corruption abounds.
Over-eager laws against plants are nothing new. Suppression of the use of plant medicines can be traced back to the European and North American witch hunts of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Tens of thousands of women suspected of practising witchcraft were executed during this period, with knowledge of herbalism often being considered a sign of guilt.iii
So are you guys saying that plants should ALWAYS be used instead of chemicals?
No! Modern 'Western' medicine is unsurpassed in its ability to treat traumatic injuries and many diseases. But, like any system, it has its weak points too. In many instances it's a lot less effective at keeping us well in the first place.
This is evident in the fact that rates of immune disease are rising exponentially. Rates of infectious disease are falling, but faced with the continuing evolution of 'superbugs', scientists predict that antibiotics could be practically useless within ten years.
Also partly to blame for increasing levels of chronic illnesses (cancers, asthma, diabetes, autism, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, infertility, etc) is the profusion of toxic industrial chemicals, agricultural pesticides and hormone disruptors in our water, soil, air and food. Lest we forget the ominous fact of massive amounts of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics that are now finding their way into water supplies through our toilets, hospitals, farms and drug factories.
And did you know that the correct use of pharmaceuticals killed 150,000 people in USA alone in 1995.iv That isn't counting incorrect prescription, overdose, negative interactions between different pharmaceuticals or medical mistakes!
All of this is in addition to a pervasive 'for-profit' attitude towards wellness, one which often appears to be aspiring to medicate more and more aspects of our lives and aiming to keep consumers reliant on pharmaceutical drugs for their entire lifespan.
This is why we promote the use of herbs to maintain good health, and why we stand up for individuals' rights to use all naturally occurring plants for any purpose that does not cause harm to others.
Is 'natural' better every time?
Not always! Just because something grows out of the ground doesn't automatically mean that it's safe to put into your body... And everything is toxic if taken in sufficient quantities, even water.
It's important to ensure that dosage of anything you put into your body is appropriate. And if you are pregnant or have a serious medical condition of any sort we STRONGLY ADVISE that you get advice from a healthcare professional before using herbs!
Happy Herbs' vision of health and wellness involves an approach to the use of herbal medicine which:
Empowers the individual to enhance their own health and happiness;
Is preventative and health focussed (rather than disease focussed);
Takes a holistic view incorporating lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, mental attitude, etc and extending to the broader social, environmental and economic factors that affect health;
Is primarily based on the Western herbal medicine tradition but is eclectic to a degree (i.e.: incorporating commonalities that exist among the world's major herbal and phytomedical traditions);
Is inclusive and does not seek to entrench any particular ideology or to supplant all pharmaceutical medicine;
Values authentic scientific appraisal of available evidence;
Entails scope for evolution and revision;
Affirms the individual's right to cognitive liberty and personal freedom in relation to the consumption of psychotropic substances.
- i - The Lascaux Caves in France contain many images of herbs which were drawn between 13,000 and 25,000 BC. Ötzi the Iceman, discovered in 1991 in the Swiss Alps 5,300 years after his death, was carrying some antibacterial birch fungi tied with a leather cord.
- ii - See the 'Herbs' section in the University of Maryland Medical Centre's online database. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed
- iii - 'Tudor Times and British Herbalism' by Christopher Menzies-Trull. http://physiomedicalism.com/articles/TudorTimesandBritishHerbalism.html
- iv - Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/prescription-drug-deaths/