Join us for the latest nutritional, fitness and wellness information helping you live a better life!
Subscribe to Updates
Medicinal herbs have been used in treating humans since written human history. You cannot say the same for pharmaceuticals. In fact, many pharmaceuticals are derived from herbs. Therefore, we cannot overlook the power of medicinal herbs. Many people ask how herbs work in the body.
Remember that this information is for educational purposes only.
Please consult your physician before starting any nutrition fitness or herbal medicine protocol.
So how do herbs work in the body?
Herbs work similarly to how you ingest food since it is a natural organic substance. When you take in herbs, the saliva and stomach acid breaks down the herb into chemicals.
Herbs are technically food and the body breaks down them the same way. However, some herbs contain chemicals not present in common foods, which is how they can sometimes produce a medicinal effect (pain relief, help digestive issues, improved metabolism, etc.)
Herbs can be used to make teas instead of being chewed and swallowed. Either way, it is going through the digestive tract and into the bloodstream.
Safety of herbs
Herbal supplements are being touted as better than pharmaceuticals due to being in a more natural state. However, that does not mean herbs are completely safe. They can be very powerful and sometimes even stronger than pharmaceuticals.
Just ask anyone who has taken marijuana or peyote and they will tell you how powerful an herbal substance can be.
Benefits of using herbal supplements
Many people recently praise herbal remedies for their medicinal benefits. Let’s talk about a few alleged benefits:
This is the main known benefit of using herbs. Herbs tend to be a little bit easier for the body to assimilate than using an engineered pharmaceutical pill.
Many pharmaceuticals can also cause toxic liver damage. Generally speaking, herbs can be less harsh than pharmaceutical drugs with fewer side effects.
However, some natural herbal remedies are not completely safe so do your research before taking any new supplements or medication.
This depends on the herb and drug you are comparing, but herbs are generally much less expensive. Remember that you can grow herbs naturally, which cannot be said for pharmaceutical drugs.
Do herbs actually work?
Many people praise herbal remedies for the reasons above. However, keep in mind that even modern medicine and pharmaceuticals are not 100% effective.
You may have even heard that sometimes a placebo in studies is more effective at treating an ailment than the drug specifically made for that condition.
That should tell you that your mindset and beliefs are a powerful force and should be a factor when doing your research when wondering about How Herbs Work in The Body.
Popular herbal supplements
Keep in mind that many of these supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. However, since there are so many herbal supplements, I am only going to discuss some of the more popular options and their alleged benefits.
Cranberry extract is touted for being able to help with urinary tract infections. In fact, my mother uses cranberry with great results when she has a urinary tract infection.
Ginseng has been a popular herbal remedy, specifically in Chinese and Korean medicine. I have used ginseng before but have not found it shows to improve my mental or sexual performance.
This is in line with medical research that shows no significant research on the benefits of Ginseng (2)
Gingko is known for helping improve memory and cognitive function. Relating back to my mother, she has seen these exact benefits since taking Gingko after suffering a stroke. Her speech has also improved since taking Gingko
A study showed that Gingko may help improve cognitive function in the elderly. (3)
This was present in my experience with my mother.
Milk thistle is usually one of the main ingredients in detoxification supplements and teas. I have been using Milk thistle for many years with great results. Whenever I would do a detox, I would drink detox tea for a week every day. I really did feel much better and even lost a few pounds in the process.
I didn’t take Milk thistle on its own, but it was one of the main ingredients in the detox tea. I can’t say for sure if it was exactly the milk thistle that caused the effective cleanse, but I believe it did.
In addition to the benefits to the liver, Milk Thistle may also help with brain function, cancer, acne, and blood sugar levels. (4)
When I went to naturopathic college, I learned that garlic has immune-boosting properties. When I felt like I was getting sick, I would eat raw garlic.
Studies back this up and show that garlic can help improve immune function due to containing compounds related to immune homeostasis (5)
One thing to note about garlic, specifically if taken raw, is that it has the tendency to cause a strong odor. This happens initially and can seep through your pores the following day.
Trust me, my wife lets me know.
However, if you can get over the odor, you may find excellent benefits to taking garlic.
To be honest, if you consult a medical doctor about herbal remedies, they will more than likely try to persuade you against using them. There are many reasons for this, but here are a couple of things I have noticed working with traditional medical doctors.
First, most medical doctors do not specialize in herbal treatments, so they may not be able to give the best opinion.
Second, some traditional medical doctors work very closely with pharmaceutical companies, so it is in their best financial interest to speak against herbal medicines.
Lastly, the clinical evidence for many herbs might not be as vast as pharmaceutical options. Remember, pharmaceutical companies have millions of dollars to spend on clinical studies and many pharma drugs have a number of FDA hoops to jump through in order to bring a drug to market.
If you do want a different opinion, I would recommend you consult with a licensed herbalist who also practices traditional medicine. That way, you can weigh the pros and cons of both types of treatments and make an informed decision with your own findings.
My personal doctor is also working with more natural remedies in addition to utilizing modern medicine and has a deep understanding of how herbs work in the body. Remember, there can be a benefit to all types of healing, which you must discover.