Herbology is the art of combining measurable quantities of medicinal herbs to prevent or cure a health ailment. It also refers to the science of the study of these herbs. It is the basic modality of traditional Chinese medicine but has evolved to encompass other traditions as well. Herbology includes the usage of the whole plant with the idea that every plant part has a specific purpose.
Herbology is often used interchangeably with other terms such as homeopathy, herbalism, and naturopathic and holistic medicines. Herbology, however, strictly refers to the study of herbs or plants used for medicinal purposes. These herbs can be in the form of teas and tinctures as well as capsules, tablets or solid extracts.
Plants have been used medicinally since the beginning of mankind. Herbal treatments have a written history of over 5,000 years, and diseases were treated with herbs thousands of year prior to that. Plants used for medicines have been referred to as "herbs" for over 4,000 years by Mediterranean and European cultures. The use of these herbs are given a Chinese origin, although it has expanded over the years to include other cultures. Today, herbal remedies are used by about 75 percent of the world's population.
There are three main branches of herbal medicine. The oldest is Chinese herbal medicine, in which herbology has its anchor. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the idea of harmony and balance. It employs thoughts of moderation and prevention for treating disease and is concerned about curing the root of an ailment as opposed to simply treating the symptoms.
Ayurvedic medicine, about 6,000 years old, comes from India. The Ayurvedic system focuses on holistic healing through diet, detoxification and purification techniques.
The Western herbal tradition, based on Roman, Greek and medieval sources, is referred to as "herbalism." It relies on the curative properties of plants to treat symptoms and disease and maintain health. Herbalism includes identifying, extracting and applying specific plant constituents to receive specific therapeutic actions.
The success of herbal treatments depends on a number of factors. The length of time an individual person has had a specific condition and the severity of the condition are among the top factors. Dedication to the treatment regimen must also be taken into consideration as well as the amount and frequency of the herb administered. In general, healing from herbs takes longer than healing from pharmaceutical medicines. Depending on an individual's metabolism and other factors, it may take two to three weeks or more before a marked improvement is detected in the body.
For the most part, herbs are safer to use than conventional medicines. Some herbal remedies, however, have not been officially tested for safety or for their true effectiveness. Side effects or allergic reactions often occur from using such unestablished treatments. As much as they are natural remedies, herbal remedies do contain drugs. Consumers should be aware of the components of herbal remedies and what effects they may have on other drugs and use caution when taking herbal remedies, just as with any other medicines.