Herbal Medicine: The Healing Power of Nature

Herbal medicine has been a long-time mainstay as one of the many modalities we practice in Naturopathic Medicine. It has also been the inspiration and model for many well-known medications today; did you know aspirin used to come from white willow bark, or that the heart medication digoxin comes from the foxglove plant?

Botanical medicine can strongly help support your immune system both preventatively and acutely. Herbs in the “immune” category general work one (or sometimes more) of three ways:

1) immune-stimulating
2) immune-modulating
3) anti-microbial

Immune-stimulating means that it can help kick up the immune system into high gear, while modulating means that it can help increase or decrease it as needed (it’s a clever herb!). The anti-microbial action of certain herbs is to be used more acutely as it kills bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Starting to prepare your system now for the upcoming change of season is a good idea. Immune supporting herbs like echinacea, astragalus, codonopsis, and elderberries can be great tools to strengthen your body before colds and flus have a chance to get in. Even as summer comes to a close and ragweed season begins, you can get ahead of your allergy symptoms with preventative botanical medicine.

Herbal medicine can come in many forms, and they all have their own merits. From stronger extracts in alcohol tinctures, to extracts made into capsules for convenience and better compliance, to dried loose-leaf herbs to be used as teas, there are many options available. While we carry capsules and tinctures, we take pride in our extensive organic dried herbal dispensary. One of the most fun parts of my job is getting to mix up custom-blend teas for our patients. Having these herbs at our disposal allows us to hand-pick which herbs would suit each patient best and be able to combine them at the doses we choose.

Although botanical teas often offer a gentler intake of the herb, it does not mean that they are all safe for everyone. Many herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and there are many that are unsafe to be combined with certain medications or health conditions. Some herbs should only be used short-term while others can be used regularly for longer periods of time. It’s always best to check with your Naturopathic Doctor to see what kinds of herbal medicines are safe and effective for you.

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