Herbal Medicine & Health Tourism

Also commonly referred to as herbalism and sometimes as botanical medicine, herbal medicine is an approach to the treatment of diseases and medical complaints involving the use of plants and their extracts.

While herbal medicine treats conditions with the use of plants, many conventional drugs also use medicines derived from plant sources. However, herbal medicine is considered an alternative medical philosophy, as the efficacy of many of the ingredients used has not been scientifically proven.

Furthermore, many plant extracts recommended by herbalists have not been approved for use as medical aids and can only be sold under the classification of ‘dietary supplement.’ In the US such products are prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from making therapeutic or health claims on their labels.

Herbalism is not a new phenomenon with many now popular supplements such as Ginseng, Gingko and Valerian having been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. People in China, India and parts of South America have long made use of certain plants, their fruit and their roots for medicinal purposes while developed countries have typically relied on conventional laboratory-derived medicines.

In herbal medicine everyday ingredients, which in the west are commonly only been used for their flavors and cooking properties, are exploited for their therapeutic benefits. Cinnamon is taken to lower blood sugar levels, garlic to boost immune systems and lower cholesterol levels, turmeric as an anti-cancer and anti-bacterial agent and ginger as a treatment for nausea, gastric irritancy and joint pain from arthritis.

Two of the most respected alternative medical philosophies from the east, Chinese and Ayurvedic, make use of plants for their alleged therapeutic properties. Chinese medicine sees herbs as capable of addressing imbalances in a patient’s yin (heat) and yang (cold). Herbs are selected on the basis of their warming or cooling properties. In Ayurvedic medicine herbs are selected on the basis of their ability to increase or reduce vata, pitta or kapha, the three humors said to be present in individuals.