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What is herbal medicine?

The traditional use of plants for healing represents the most ancestral and popular medicine in the world. This is what we call phytotherapy which means “healing with plants” in Greek. This art consists of using plants and plant extracts in all their aspects with the aim of relieving everyday ailments. Bulk dried plants are the rawest form, which allows them to be exploited in the most authentic way. All parts of the plant (roots, rhizome, stem, flowers, bark, leaves, whole plant) can be used depending on the type of plant you use and the area you want to relieve. Plants are dried under specific conditions such as a dry place, sheltered from the sun, ventilated and at a mild temperature. These conditions are necessary to maintain the organoleptic characteristics and molecular composition of the plant. Known for many "grandmother's remedies", infusions and decoctions are the most common forms of using dried plants. However, they are traditionally prepared in many other forms such as poultices, lotions, compresses, gargles, creams and many more!

Method of preparing plants in herbal medicine

In herbal medicine, plants are used in multiple forms, more or less complex. We mainly find:

  • tHE herbal teas or infusions, very widely used;
  • tHE decoctions, which consist of boiling the plant for a certain period of time;
  • cold macerations, which are a kind of infusion, but in cold water;
  • medicinal wines, which are made from maceration in alcohol;
  • mother tinctures, which result from maceration in a mixture of alcohol and water;
  • fluid extracts, which result from maceration in alcohol and glycerin;
  • but also in juice, powder, compress, gargle, lotion, bath, inhalation, etc.
If you want to know more, here is a page dedicated to different ways of using plants in herbal medicine.

The active ingredients of plants used in herbal medicine

Medicinal plants derive their properties from the active ingredients they contain. It's not about magic, it's about chemistry. Here is a brief overview of the different types of molecules found in these plants and which give them medicinal properties: 

  • Bones and glycosides; 
  • Mucilages;
  • Phenyl compounds; 
  • Tannins;
  • Flavonoids; 
  • Saponosides; 
  • Alkaloids;
  • Mineral salts; 
  • Sesquiterpene lactones;
  • The iridoids; 
  • Steroidal structures; 
  • And of course essential oils.
If you would like to know more about their role and the plants that contain them, go to this page dealing with molecules present in herbal teas

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Bibliography

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