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What is herbalism?

study and practice of using plant material for food, medicine and health promotion

Not only treats disease but also to improve quality of life physically and spiritually


What is the fundamental principle of herbalism?

promote preventative care and simple treatments for the general population.


What is an herbalist?

someone who has taken specific studies and supervised training to treat patients


What are some common themes of herbalism?

Optimization of health and wellness
emphasis on the individual
emphasis on community
premise of recycling
regulation of practice


what can an herb be?

an angiosperm
or fungus


What does an herbalist use on the plant for treatment?

may use the entire plant or just the flower, fruit, leaves, twigs, bark, root, rhizomes or seeds or a combination


What can herbalist use in their preparation of substances?

they can use plants or non plants including insects, animals shells, worm castings, metals, minerals or other things


What are the three classifications of herbalists?

professional herbalist, lay herbalist and plant gather grower and medicine maker


What is a professional herbalist?

undergoes formalized training or apprentice training in plant and medical studies or plant and spiritual healing

might allow a family tradition or be selected at a young age to become a professional herbalist

have high familiarity with interactions with herbs; three people with same complaint would probably get a different treatment

uses an approach similar to a doctor to prescribe herbs


What is a lay herbalist?

has a broad knowledge of plants but no extensive training

may be a vendor who has been passed down a family business

can evaluate plant doses, quality, strength and uses

the irish herbalists is an example


What is a plant gatherer, plant grower or medicine maker?

like a pharmacist rather than an herbalist

more specialized in making herbal preparations


what are some characteristics of herbal plants?

plants used are analyzed using the five senses for use in people

may have standardizing of the product

make attentive observation of the plant's effect on animals and humans


How do herbalists classify plants?

based on:

volatile oils
peptide hormones


how are physiological characteristics of the plants determined?

based on the influence of the plant on a person and their characteristics

plants are categorized according to their method of action


how are plants used for healing?

may be dried, whole, chopped, infusions, or decoctions

typically flowers, leaves and powdered herbs are infused where fruits, seeds, barks and roots are decoction

can also be tinctured with alcohol or delivered non-orally through ointments, enemas, baths, or oils but capsules and tablets are the most common delivery form


how can herb quality be affected?

by seasonal variation, environmental factors, collection methods, transport and storage or manufacturing can all affect an herb


What are some cautions when taking herbs?

can cause lethal side effects, allergic reactions, effects from contaminants


What are some contraindications of herbs?

bromeliad, cayenne, chamomile, and feverfew can interact with aspirin

aloe, ephedra, ginseng and liquorice interact with corticosteroids

kava, st.john's worts. and valerian interact with CNS depressants

chamomile, horse chestnut and fenugreek enhance the risk of bleeding


What are some standards which herbalists must abide by?

in the US, trade and professional organizations are setting standards in agricultural, lab, supply and manufacturing practices and SOP's

most herbal products are regulated as dietary supplements

can only make structure and function claims and no therapeutic claims


Can herbs be used for pregnancy?

no, no testing has been performed


Where have herbs been used?

children and for treating aging population


Briefly describe the history of herbalism

Throughout history, cultures have used plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, both for treatment and for prevention. With the advent of modern medicine, the North American medical community has moved away from the use of plants for medicine. However, practitioners in Europe and Asia have continued to use and study herbs, and practitioners in many nations where modern medicine is not readily available still rely on plants as their main source of medicine.


What has led to people using herbalism?

Many people in North America have become disillusioned with the limited ability of modern medicine to cure everything and this had led many to turn to CAM, including herbal remedies, with the hope that this will solve health problems and improve well-being. Indeed, in recent years there has been a dramatic growth in the range of herbal products sold in drugstores.


What's the issue with labeling herbs as natural?

Some people consider plant remedies better than synthetic drugs because they are “natural.” But merely because something is natural does not mean it is harmless. After all, many highly toxic substances are found in plants, for example tobacco, cocaine, and heroin. Likewise, many of the naturally occurring common metal salts are also highly toxic (lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic).


How have herbs led to pharmaceutical drugs?

Plants are a complex mixture of thousands of substances. Some of these substances can be toxic, as indicated above. Many of the substances in plants are vital for nutrition: vitamins, minerals, starch, and so forth. And some substances have medical value. Indeed, many of today’s common drugs were originally discovered based on the use of particular plants as a part of herbal medicine. Subsequent research identified the active chemical which was then reborn as a “drug.” Examples include aspirin, curare, digitalis, ephedrine, morphine, and quinine.


What's the issue with herbalism and medicinal values?

It is important to bear in mind that if a substance has medicinal value, then it makes no difference whether it is delivered to the body packaged up as a herb or purified and given as a “drug.” The body cannot distinguish between a pure compound from either natural or synthetic origin.


What are some of the reasons that has led to the controversy of herbs being used in North America

Much of the controversy over the medicinal use of herbs arises from the weak regulation of herbal remedies in North America as well as the lack of scientifically credible research carried out on the many plants believed to have medicinal properties. In addition, herbal preparations have a wide variation in the concentration of active ingredients.


What other therapy is in common with herbalism?



what other therapies also use herbalism?

chinese medicine, north american natives, and ayurveda,


How is the structure of herbalism weaker than other forms of CAM?

the Canadian Council of Herbalist Associations was formed in 2005. Herbalists carry out their own training program. However, herbalism lacks formal recognition by any licencing body. We see, therefore, that herbal medicine has a much weaker organizational structure when compared to other forms of CAM.


What is the traditional and modern form of herbalism?

Traditionally, herbal treatments are prepared on an individual basis, often from several different herbs.

the modern trend is that herbal products have been transformed into a large commercial enterprise where standardized products are sold directly to the general public.


Where are modern herbal products sold? How has this affected people taking herbs?

These herbal products are sold in health food stores and the pharmacy section of most supermarkets. Herbal products are found alongside dietary supplements. Millions of people are, in effect, acting as their own herbalist and are self-medicating.


What are four reasons an herbal product may have the same name but different chemical variations?

There may be two or more species of plants that have the same name. Typically, they are closely related but, nevertheless, there may be major differences in their content of substances with health-related effects.

Different parts of the plant may be used for preparation of the herbal products (e.g., the flower or the root).

Processing methods can differ widely. The plant (or a part of it) may be simply crushed or substances may be extracted using alcohol or water. Herbal products may then be sold as bulk herbs, teas, fluid extracts, and tablets or capsules.

Manufacturers of herbal products may simply substitute cheaper products for more costly ones.


What does variation of herbal product mean for research and analysis and the people who take the herb?

Suppose the results of a study are published reporting that herb X is effective for a particular condition. A person who buys a herbal product with a label indicating that it contains herb X may well receive little or none of the active ingredient that generated the positive results in the research study. This problem is far less likely to occur with nutritional products (such as vitamins or minerals) or with drugs.


Briefly describe aloe vera

is the source of two products that are completely different in their chemical composition and their therapeutic properties. Aloe vera gel is a jelly-like substance obtained from the inner portion of aloe leaves. It has been used topically for thousands of years to treat wounds, skin infections, burns, and numerous other dermatologic conditions. There is promising evidence that is that may improve wound healing and skin inflammation.

Aloe juice (or latex), on the other hand, is used as a laxative. It is certainly effective. However it cannot be recommended as it has various side effects. It has been reported to induce tumours of the large intestine in rats.


briefly describe black cohosh

used to treat symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Study results are mixed as to its effectiveness.

Some people taking black cohosh have experienced mild side effects including stomach discomfort, headache, or rash. There has been some alarm that the herb may be a cause of liver disease but this is far from clear.


briefly describe chamomile

Often used for sleeplessness, anxiety, and gastrointestinal conditions such as upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. However, there is little evidence to support its use for any condition. The herb is generally believed to be safe, but there are some reports of serious allergic reactions.


briefly describe cranberry juice

recommended in the prevention of urinary tract infections. There is some supporting evidence but it is not definitive and more research is needed.

Cranberry appears to inhibit the ability of the microorganisms to adhere to the epithelial cells that line the urinary tract, thus rendering this environment less suitable for the growth of the bacteria. The recommended dose is 150 to 600 mL of the juice daily. Excessive amounts may cause gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea. It should not be used as a substitute for antibiotics in acute urinary tract infections.


briefly describe echinecia

popular for treating or preventing colds, flu, and other infections. There have been several randomized trials but results have not been consistent: some studies have found echinacea to be helpful while other studies have not seen any benefit.

explain day different concentrations of the herb found in preparations which use different parts of the plant and cannot be recommended for treatment of colds or flu's

apparently contain substances that can stimulate the immune system

some side effects are upset stomach or diahhrea


Briefly describe evening primrose oil

used for eczema an other inflammation conditions

can also be used for women health such as breast pain with menstrual cycle, menopause, PMS,

appears to be effective for eczema and and may be useful for rheumatoid arthritis and breast pain but results are mixed

well tolerated by most by may include GI upset and headache



can reduce high blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, and may slow the development of atherosclerosis. However, these effects, while useful, appear to be quite weak. Some evidence suggests that garlic may lower the risk of certain types of cancer.

Garlic poses very little risk of harm for most adults. Side effects include breath and body odour, heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic reactions. Can impede blood clotting



The rhizomes (underground stems) of the ginger plant are used as a spice and also as a medicine. Ginger can be used fresh, dried and powdered, or as a juice or oil. It is an ingredient in many digestive, antinausea, and cold and flu supplements. It is also used for nausea associated with pregnancy, motion, chemotherapy, or following surgery. Studies suggest that the short-term use of ginger can safely relieve pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. However, the evidence is much less clear for nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy, or surgery. Ginger has also been used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint and muscle pain. Again, there is little hard evidence that ginger is effective for these conditions.

Ginger taken in small doses is quite safe. However, it may lead to gas, bloating, heartburn, and nausea, especially in the powdered form.


Ginkgo biloba

It has gained much popularity based on claims that it improves the memory and may be helpful in the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Yet after studies no evidence exists it helps these conditions

Some evidence suggests that the herb may improve memory and speed of mental processing in healthy young to middle-aged people.

Ginkgo is also used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, fatigue, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). However, there is little supporting evidence from well-conducted trials

Like the large majority of herbs, use of ginkgo has been linked to side effects, though these seem quite mild. These may include headache, nausea, gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions.



Purported benefits include delaying the aging process, anti-stress capabilities, enhanced sexual performance (in men), improved cardiovascular function, improved immune function, improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes, and protection against some cancers. The most popular use is for increasing a sense of well-being and stamina, and improving mental and physical performance.

most research on asian ginseng

problems with research is that it is observational from asian use. Also different variations in the species studied and processing affects it as well

Short term appears to be safe for most people but long term greater than 3 months has some. Include insomnia, headache and diahhreah.



used particularly for infections, such as colds and other respiratory tract infections. However, there is little solid supporting evidence for its use with any health problem. It is considered safe for short-term use in adults but there is little available information regarding long-term use or the safety of high dosages. Some evidence suggests that the herb may cause changes in the way the body metabolizes drugs, and could possibly alter the effects of many drugs.



used for anxiety, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms. Some studies suggest that kava may be beneficial for the management of anxiety. However, there is evidence that it causes liver damage, including hepatitis and liver failure (which can cause death). In addition, it may interact with several drugs.


Milk thistle

claimed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is given as a treatment for liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. There is some supporting evidence of efficacy but this is far from conclusive.

Few adverse effects have been seen in patients other than minor gastrointestinal disturbances and mild allergic reactions.


Saw Palmetto

recommended mainly for treating an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH). This herb provides yet another example where earlier, smaller studies gave positive results while later, larger studies were negative. Taking an overall average the fairest statement is that the herb may provide, at most, some modest benefit. It has a good safety record.



being promoted as a source of omega-7 fatty acids which, supposedly, have a wonderful effect on the skin. However, there is extremely little information on this herbal product.



eaten in the form of soybeans and as part of the diet. Extracts are available that contain isoflavones or soy protein or both. Soy is commonly used for lowering cholesterol and for this purpose it has a modest but beneficial effect. It is also used for the treatment of menopausal symptoms (primarily hot flushes). There is some supporting evidence but it is weak and inconsistent. Soy is safe as part of the diet, but the safety of long-term use of soy isoflavones is not known.


St John's wort

has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain. In recent years there has been a huge interest in this herb as a treatment for mild to moderate depression. The evidence for effectiveness is mixed: several trials reported that it is as effective as some antidepressant drugs while other studies have given negative results.

The major side effect from use of St. John’s Wort is that it interferes with a variety of medications.


Why do the claims of herbal products not live up to the claims

Many of the claims in support of herbal products are based on their use by healers as a part of traditional medicine, often with a history going back to ancient times. At the same time many people have faith in herbal medicine as it is sync with their philosophical viewpoint of the relationship between humans and nature. In support of the efficacy of herbal products are testimonials where users state, with complete confidence, that the herb really does work. However, folklore and testimonials leave open the possibility that the supposed cures are, in reality, reflections of spontaneous remissions, misdiagnosis, or the placebo effect


What is a significant problem with herbal preparations regarding what they contain? How does this affect research?

wide variation in the content of active ingredients from one product to the next. There are multiple reasons for this, as discussed earlier. A survey of 81 randomized controlled trials reported that the investigators determined the actual contents of the herbal preparation in only 15 per cent of the trials (Wolsko et al., 2005). This means that in most cases we really do not know what was actually being investigated.


How is ephedra dangerous?

This ancient Chinese herb contains ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine, which are also found in asthma drugs and decongestants. Ephedra became popular during the 1990s to bring about weight loss. However, it caused stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, and death. It almost certainly caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of cases of adverse reactions.


What are some other potential problems with herbal products?

There have been many cases reported of herbal products that contain toxic heavy metals or added pharmacologic drugs. These extra substances are not identified on the label.


What is the problem with reporting adverse reactions with herbs?

However, this figure only includes cases that are reported and where a herbal product is the only substance involved. There is little doubt that the true figure is many times higher. In many instances the adverse effect may be due to the herb itself, but often there are extra substances present in the herbal product.


How are vulnerable to harm from herbal products?

pregnant and nursing people


Demonstrate why it is so difficult to identify the component that may cause harm to individuals

This is best demonstrated by the history of tobacco. Millions of men took up smoking starting around 1920. The habit causes a huge increase in the risk of lung cancer, as well as of several other major diseases. Yet it was not until around 1950 that medical scientists first noticed the problem and another ten years after that before this was confirmed. It is likely to be far more difficult to detect an adverse side effect associated with using a herb, especially if the person’s physician is unaware that the herb is being used.


Which herb(s) have/has been used for treatment of colds and other respiratory tract infections?

echinecia and goldenseal


Which type of ginseng product is not a true ginseng?

Siberian ginseng


The herb with the highest risk of causing adverse side effects is



Which of the following herbal products is most likely to cause harmful side effects?



Which herbal product has often been recommended for the improvement of cognitive performance?

ginko biloba


The amount of active compound available in a plant can be affected by

all of the above


Cranberry is indicated in

the prevention and treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections


Which herb is often recommended for the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy?

saw palmetto


Which plant product(s) are/is often recommended for lowering the blood cholesterol level?

soy products and garlic