I have a healthy balanced diet, I take a daily multivitamin and, apart from a few niggles, I’m generally healthy. Why would I want to take herbs?
Herbs are very different from single nutrients. They are complex mixtures of phytochemicals which interact with our systems in complex ways. Any one herb may contain thousands of phytochemicals. Take Liquorice, for example. Did you know that the constituents of Liquorice root include:
- Triterpenoid saponins (glycyrrhizin, and other saponins);
- Glycyrrhetinic acid and the aglycone of glycyrrhizin;
- a wide range of flavonoids which give the root its yellow colour including flavanones (mainly liquiritin), chalcones and isoflavanoids;
Nature is extraordinary. Evidence suggests that these many phytochemicals act in a synergistic way when we use them. it is the classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Time and again it has been found that using an isolated chemical from a plant doesn’t have the same effect as using the whole plant – maybe because it misses the balancing effects of the other chemicals?
Evidence suggests that humans have probably been using plants for health purposes for almost as long as they’ve been on this planet. Pollen from medicinal plants has been found by archaeologists in neanderthal graves and we have early written evidence of plant use that dates back 5000 years. So using herbs is not a new idea!
Herbalists in the 19th century believed that the human body had its own ‘vital force’ or energy and that if your vital force was depleted you were more at risk of illness or disease. Amongst other things, they used herbs to build up a patient’s vital force, thus making them more resilient. Using herbs in this way is something that Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have been doing for thousands of years. They used herbs that they called Rasayana (Ayurvedic medicine) or Tonic herbs (Traditional Chinese medicine). Many of these herbs are known today as ‘Adaptogens’ and we use them in very much the same way as those herbalists did in times gone by – to support our bodies to adjust and adapt to the stresses and strains of life and to boost our own ‘vital force’ to ensure we have more zest for life and can live it to the full.
So, it’s wonderful that you have a good and healthy balanced diet and that you are keeping an eye on the nutrients that you may need to supplement but maybe some herbs could add something else to your life? Maybe you can ask yourself when is the last time you had a spring in your step or a feeling that you were ready to take on the world? Maybe the world of herbs is asking you to explore it?