How does herbal medicine work

Overview medicinal plants

Medicinal plants (Medicinal plants, medicinal herbs) are on the one hand processed into standardized finished products (phytotherapeutics) according to scientific methods and then also used in conventional medicine (so-called modern or rational phytotherapy), on the other hand medicinal plants are an important component in many alternative healing methods such as homeopathy, Bach- Flower therapy, aromatherapy or Ayurvedic medicine.

But many home remedies also rely on the healing power of plants and refer to traditional herbal medicine, which has developed in many forms in our culture - from antiquity to Arab influences and monastic medicine of the Middle Ages to modern herbalists, alternative practitioners and laypeople who have dedicated themselves specifically to the healing of diseases through plants. This traditional phytotherapy (traditional herbal medicine, herbal medicine), in contrast to modern phytotherapy, does not rely on isolated individual extracts, but uses the complete extracts obtained from complete plants or parts of plants, mostly in the form of teas or infusions.

Even if it is used around the globe - herbal medicine is scientifically only poorly secured. In contrast to rational phytotherapy, it does not have to provide any strict proof of effectiveness for its products. In some cases, this is not even possible: Due to the non-standardized preparation and the very different growth conditions of medicinal herbs, traditionally prepared herbal products often contain very different amounts of active ingredients.

But that does not mean that herbal preparations are ineffective - the traditional preparations are based on a wealth of experience accumulated from generation to generation.

Pharmacies, health food stores and health food stores keep the most important medicinal herbs in stock. The safest source is the pharmacy - it ensures that the medicinal herbs comply with the provisions of the drug book and are properly stored.

Both the traditional (i.e. scientifically not secured) areas of application and the use in rational (scientifically justifiable) phytotherapy are named. The recommendations for use mentioned here are based on the monographs of the ESCOP from 2003 (the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy was commissioned by the EU with the scientific evaluation of medicinal plants):

anise

  • Commitment:
    • The dried fruits and the oil obtained from them are used.
    • Scientifically proven uses: antispasmodic effect against bronchitis and pharyngitis as well as gastrointestinal complaints.
    • Also useful for menstrual cramps, colic, flatulence and liver diseases. In the case of flatulence and abdominal cramps, alternate with fennel tea to increase the effectiveness.
  • Preparation: Brew 1 teaspoon of crushed fruit with ½ l of water, let it steep for 10 minutes and drain.
  • Note: Especially with anise, which is rich in essential oils, freshness is crucial: "The best is fresh, full, without dust, has a strong smell." (Dioscurides, doctor in ancient Greece)

arnica

  • Commitment:
    • The dried inflorescences are used.
    • Scientifically proven uses: due to the germicidal and anti-inflammatory effect on blunt injuries, muscle and joint pain, skin inflammation and insect bites (arnica compresses).
    • Traditionally also used for inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat and as a tea for angina pectoris and severe menstrual cramps.
  • Preparation:
    • Essence or tincture: for compresses, as a gargle solution or for rubbing in, dilute 1:10 with water.
    • Arnica tea (to be used as a poultice): Pour 150 ml of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of flowers, leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  • Hints:
    • Arnica must not be used internally.
    • Do not apply to open wounds for long periods of time (marigold is the right medicinal plant here).
    • Allergies do occur.

valerian

  • Commitment:
    • The dried rhizome is used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: due to the calming effect in nervous-related problems with falling asleep and restlessness. Valerian influences the metabolism of the neurotransmitters (messenger substances of the nerve cells).
    • Traditionally also used for nervous exhaustion, headaches, anxiety and muscle tension.
  • Preparation:
    • Valerian tea: Pour 1 teaspoon of valerian root with ½ l of hot water, let it steep for 10 minutes and strain.
    • Bath: add 2 liters of tea to the bath water.
  • Note: Valerian reduces the ability to drive, especially 1–2 hours after ingestion.

ivy

  • Commitment:
    • The dried leaves are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: recommended due to the bactericidal and antispasmodic effect in the case of airway inflammation, especially of the bronchi.
    • Traditionally used: internally e.g. B. for gall bladder, gout and rheumatism. Externally z. B. against lice, nerve pain and ulcers.
  • Preparation: The active ingredients of ivy can only be extracted with difficulty by traditional preparations. Therefore, only finished preparations are used.
  • Note: ivy has an expectorant effect. Therefore do not use together with a cough suppressant.

fennel

  • Commitment:
    • The dried ripe fruits or their oil are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: due to the antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and soothing effects in bronchitis and gastrointestinal complaints.
    • Also traditionally used for vomiting. The oil is also used for external rubbing of the abdomen for flatulence and abdominal cramps.
  • Preparation:
    • Fennel tea: Brew 1 teaspoon of crushed fruit with ½ l of water, let it steep for 10 minutes, then drain.
    • For flatulence and abdominal cramps. Possibly alternate with aniseed tea.
  • Note: Do not use fennel oil with young children, during pregnancy or breastfeeding (the dried fruits are harmless, however).

hop

  • Commitment:
    • The dried female inflorescences are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: recommended due to its calming effect in case of restlessness, nervousness, anxiety and sleep disorders. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it is best to combine it with valerian root.
    • Traditionally also used for headaches as well as menstrual and menopausal symptoms.
  • Preparation: Hop tea: Pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of crushed flowers, leave to steep for 10 minutes.
  • Note: Hop preparations reduce the ability to drive.

Johannis herbs

  • Commitment:
    • The herbs collected during the flowering period are used.
    • Scientifically proven application for St. John's wort extract: Depressive mood and winter depression due to the effect on the neurotransmitter metabolism in the brain.
    • Traditionally also used for bronchitis, the oil for gout and rheumatism.
    • Also as an ointment for wound healing and as a skin care product for dry skin.
  • Preparation:
    • St. John's wort tea: Pour 150 ml of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of cabbage, leave to steep for 5–10 minutes.
    • Oil for external use (rubbing in): moisten the palm of your hand and rub in well.
  • Hints:
    • Interactions with other drugs are possible - ask your doctor for advice.
    • Taking St. John's wort causes hypersensitivity to sunlight!

chamomile

  • Commitment:
    • The medicinal herb par excellence. The flower heads are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: due to the anti-inflammatory effects in skin and mucous membrane inflammation, in wounds in the anal and genital area and in diseases of the respiratory tract.
    • Traditionally also used externally for: acne, hemorrhoids and boils and internally for flatulence and abdominal cramps.
  • Preparation:
    • Chamomile tea: Pour ½ tbsp. With ½ l of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes, strain. Drink tea for heartburn and stomach problems, gargle several times a day for inflammation in the mouth and throat.
    • Inhalation: a handful of chamomile flowers in 1 / 2–1 l of water.
  • Hints:
    • Anyone who is allergic to daisy family should avoid chamomile (chamomile is a daisy family).
    • In addition to real chamomile, there are also many (non-medicinal) species of chamomile.

Lemon balm

  • Commitment:
    • The leaves and the oil obtained from them are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: due to the virus-inhibiting effect externally for cold sores. Internal use for restlessness, sleep disorders, tension and digestive disorders.
    • Traditionally also used for abdominal disorders, nervous disorders and nervous stomach disorders; externally z. B. for nerve pain and rheumatic complaints.
  • Preparation: Melissa tea: Pour 1/8 l of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of leaves, let steep for 10 minutes, strain. Have a cup in the evening.
  • Note: If you have trouble falling asleep, use lemon balm in combination with valerian, hops or passion flower.

mistletoe

  • Commitment:
    • The branches are used with leaves, flowers and fruits.
    • Scientifically proven applications: accompanying cancer
    • Traditionally used for: epilepsy, whooping cough, diarrhea and palpitations.
  • Preparation: Mistletoe: 1 teaspoon of mistletoe in 150 ml cold Let the water steep for 12 hours, then briefly (!) Bring to the boil before drinking.
  • Note: Mistletoe preparations are paid for by health insurances in the case of cancer.

peppermint

  • Commitment:
    • The leaves and the oil are used, but the latter is not used on babies and toddlers.
    • Scientifically proven uses: due to the antibacterial and antispasmodic effect in digestive disorders, flatulence and gastric mucosal inflammation
    • The oil is recommended internally for nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, coughs and colds, externally for tension headaches, coughs and colds and rheumatic complaints.
  • Preparation:
    • Peppermint tea: Scald 2–3 teaspoons with 150 ml of hot water, leave to steep for 10 minutes.
    • Oil - internal use: 1–4 drops up to 3 times a day.
    • Oil - external use: rub 1 drop on temple.
    • Oil inhalation: inhale 3–4 drops in hot water.
  • Hints:
    • Be careful with peppermint oil: do not use in babies and young children as it could lead to respiratory failure.
    • Do not get the oil in the eyes when using it in the temples.

Marigold

  • Commitment:
    • The flowers are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications: due to the anti-inflammatory and germicidal effect, recommended for wound healing, especially in infected wounds, as well as in skin inflammation and inflammation of the mucous membranes.
    • Traditionally used externally z. B. in wounds - also infected - and in venous diseases, internally z. B. with menstrual cramps and stomach or intestinal inflammation.
  • Preparation:
    • Marigold tea: Pour 1 teaspoon of dried flowers (or a handful of fresh flowers) with ½ l of water, leave to steep for 10–15 minutes.
    • Essence or tincture: for compresses, as a gargle solution or for rubbing in, dilute 1:10 with water.
  • Note:
    • A stronger tea can also be used to cleanse wounds: Pour 150 ml of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of petals without a calyx and let them steep for 10 minutes.
    • For hobby gardeners: Marigolds are easy to grow yourself (even on the balcony).

sage

  • Commitment:
    • The leaves are used.
    • Scientifically proven uses due to the anti-inflammatory and astringent (astringent) effect, internally for excessive sweating and dysfunction of the gastrointestinal tract. Gargling sage tea helps with mouth and throat infections.
    • Traditionally used: internally e.g. B. with loss of appetite, flatulence, diarrhea. Externally z. B. with inflammation of the skin and in the mouth and throat area.
  • Preparation: sage tea:
    • For tea, pour ½ l of boiling water over a few fresh leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, leave to stand for 10 minutes, then drain.
    • To improve the taste, mix with chamomile tea or peppermint and sweeten with honey.
  • Note: Sage reduces milk production and should therefore not be drunk by breastfeeding women.

Hawthorn

  • Commitment:
    • The leaves and flowers are used.
    • Scientifically proven applications for the onset of heart failure and nervous heart problems.
    • Traditionally also for dizziness and shortness of breath.
  • Preparation: Chop 1 teaspoon leaves well, pour 150 ml of boiling water over them, leave to steep for 5–10 minutes
  • Note: The build-up of effects is slow, it often takes 8 weeks for an effect to be seen.

Authors

Dr. med. Herbert Renz-Polster in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). | last changed on at 11:34