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Herbal Medicine

What Is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal medicine is the most ancient form of healing and still the most widely used system of medicine in the world today. It is medicine made exclusively from plants. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurveda (the Indian tradition) and North American herbology are key branches of herbal medicine. Different cultures may diverge in the plants or part of the plants they use due to climate and history.

Herbal medicine uses plant parts such as seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, flowers and occasionally animal tissue for medicinal purposes. Many prescription medications originate from herbal plants by singling out and then synthesizing these chemical components. For example, did you know that the drug Valium was developed to mimic the main ingredient of the valerian plant? Or that poppies produce the key ingredient of the painkiller morphine?

Who Uses Herbal Medicine?

Before prescription medication and surgery, people of all cultures relied on botanical medicine to prevent, relieve, and treat illness. Although the use of herbs is no longer part of conventional medicine in Western cultures, it is still very much utilized on other parts of the world. Herbal knowledge has been passed down through the generations from a time when people knew how to heal themselves working in tandem with Mother Nature. Today, many practitioners including certified herbalists and acupuncturists are formally trained in the use of botanical medicine. It is estimated that 80% of the worldwide population relies on herbal medicines for some form of primary care.

Improvements in quality control of herbal products and research studies are helping to put herbal medicine in the mainstream. And there is a global trend of more people treating illnesses with herbs or using them in combination with conventional medicine.

How Do Herbs Work?

Herbal Medicine uses the entire composition of the herbs. Herbalists believe the harmony represented in the plant is what the body will best respond to. Many herbs, because they are food, contain crucial vitamins and minerals that increase their effectiveness. Herbs almost always have more than one use. For instance, Ginkgo Biloba is not only used to treat circulatory disorders but enhances memory and is an anti-inflammatory. Herbs are used not only to alleviate symptoms but also to address the root cause of an illness and heal the body.

However, the effectiveness of herbs greatly depends on their quality. Similar to the nutritional value of food, the potency of an herb is determined by how and where it was grown, when and how it was harvested and the way it was processed. Simply put, herbal products are not all created equal.

What Do Herbs Treat?

In most cases, herbal medicines have shown significantly fewer side effects than conventional prescription medication. Used correctly, herbal medicine can treat a wide variety of conditions. Herbal supplements are best taken under the care and guidance of a trained herbalist because although they are natural, they are powerful and, if used incorrectly, can injure the body.

Asthma Autoimmune Disorders Hormone Imbalance Fertility Sleep Problems Cardiac Health
Pain Menopausal Symptoms Chemotherapy Support Eczema Acid Reflux Mental Clarity
PMS Chronic Fatigue Rheumatoid Arthritis Migraines Menopause IBS and IBD
Acne Digestive Disorders Weight Loss Energy Sex Drive Circulation
Anxiety Pregnancy Support Immune System Allergies Infections Depression

Forms of Herbal Medicine

Herbs can come in a variety of forms as shown below.

Herbal Form

How it’s Made/Used


Made from dried herbs steeped in hot water.


Made from concentrated extracts with added sweeter tastings preparations.

Often used for sore throats, coughs and pediatric treatments.


Extracted from plants diffused in oil. Usually for topical use.

May be put in an ointment, salve, or cream.

Tinctures/Liquid Extracts

Made of active herbal ingredients dissolved in a liquid. Usually is in a base of alcohol, water or glycerol. Often the most potent form of ingested herbs.

Dry Extracts (pills/capsules)

The herbs are dried and ground into a powder.

Who can I go to for Herbal Medicine?

Merge Medical Center has trained health care providers that utilize herbal medicine to treat and prevent illness in the Charleston area. We use our licensed herbalist, acupuncturist, naturopath, functional medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners to customize a regimen to restore health naturally. These more natural-minded clinicians strongly believe that the body is continuously striving for balance and that these natural therapies can aid in their healing process. Furthermore, we only work with herbal companies we have reviewed who adhere to strict quality control measures.