DEFINITION AND APPLICATION
Plant-based medicine is derived from plant extracts and their natural active ingredients. The word comes from the Greek "phytos" which means plant and "therapeuo" which means to cure.
Three types of practices distinguished:
• Traditional practice with an explicit therapeutic aim based on the use of plants according to their virtues discovered empirically. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), this form of herbal medicine is considered to be a traditional form of medicine and is still widely used in various countries. Due to the absence of systematic clinical studies, the traditional practice of herbal medicine is still considered to be an unconventional medicine;
• Practice based on scientific research of specific active plant extracts. In this form of herbal medicine, the active plant extracts are standardized, typically leading to the development of pharmaceutical drugs or phytomedicines. This form of plant-based medicine is called pharmacognosy or pharmaceutical biology. According to the regulations of each country, the product is subject to sales authorization (overseen by the AMM in France) and to the regulations on pharmaceutical raw materials (MPUP) for master preparations of plants. Research for these products is based in part on the traditional practices described above, but poses serious ethical and political problems as it leads to the patentability of life;
• Practice of prophylaxis, using ancient plant-based preparations for medicinal remedies, as in cooking, fermentation, or teas and infusions. Although the interactions between products usually combined are the subject of research, only the case of products consumed separately are currently related to herbal medicine.
Precautions for herbal medicine:
• Some herbs contain active ingredients that can be extremely potent, others are low-dose toxic. Just because only plants are used in the preparation does not mean that the medicinal remedy is safe - one must practice caution and make educated decisions when working with herbal and plant-based medicine.
• While pharmacology recognizes the beneficial action of certain plants, and therefore seeks to extract the active principles of these plants, the "raw" consumption of the plant results in the consumption of other chemical components in the plant. This makes it difficult in figuring out the exact dose when targeting a specific active ingredient, resulting in a risk of under-dosage or overdose. An example of this is the distillation of lavender, this preparation makes it possible to count more than 200 different molecules, including ketones and coumarins, whose toxicity is less than if they were used alone [ref. insufficient].
• While it is obvious that chemical composition differs from plant to plant in terms of various species, the composition of a plant even varies from one specimen to another within the same species to a smaller, but still significant degree. This variation is dependant on the terrain, and growing conditions (humidity, temperature, and sunlight exposure), which determines the plant’s chemotype.
• It is not recommended to use plants of dubious origin, since pollution factors, collection and methods of conservation, environmental conditions, storage and transportation, can alter the properties of the plants. Dry plants sold in transparent bags should also be avoided, as the light partly impairs their properties.
Herbal medicine and health professionals.
Apart from at-home use of herbal preparations, plant-based medicine is prescribed by health professionals, state graduates (doctors, pharmacists, dentists, midwives, veterinarians, nurses, physiotherapists, etc.) and holistic healthcare practitioners (naturopaths, osteopaths, etc.). The sale of phytotherapy products is subject to the legislation of the food supplement.
“Natural” does not always mean beneficial and safe.
It must be noted that some retailers showcase herbal medicine as a "natural" method, insinuating that “natural” is "beneficial" and "harmless" as a marketing ploy. Nature is neither good nor bad, and it is important to consider that death, disease, viruses, and bacteria are considered to be natural. It is estimated that 5% of poisonings are due to misuse of plants. Moreover, the vast majority of active ingredients contained in pharmaceutical drugs are derived from plant molecules.
This information was gathered from various websites to provide a better definition and understanding of phytotherapy and aromatherapy. These sources include:
- Simepi (groups together doctors and pharmacists whose aim is to expand the knowledge on endobiogeny: a physiological and integrative medicine that analyzes the patient as a whole with regard to their interaction with the environment).
- Private health websites such as Doctossimo, ist-world, Wikipedia, etc - French magazines such as Figaro, Sante Magazine, etc.
- Private practitioners or health professionals expert in the industry.
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