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Herbs are plants grown for culinary or medicinal purposes. Generally, herbs are the green, leafy part of the plant, while spices come from the seeds, berries, bark or other parts. For culinary use, small amounts of herbs are used to provide flavor to foods. Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or “folk medicine” practice based on the use of herbs to treat ailments, resist disease, boost the immune system and provide nutritional support . Herbalism is also referred to as botanical medicine, herbal medicine, herbology or phytotherapy. The main goal of herbalists is prevention, as well as cure. Most agree that pharmaceuticals are more effective in emergency situations where time is of the essence, such as when a patient has elevated blood pressure that poses an imminent danger.

People on all continents have used herbs for treatment of ailments since prehistoric times. Herbal medicine is a major component in Ayuryedic, homeopathic, naturopathic, traditional Chinese medicine and Native American medicine. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of the world’s population presently uses herbal medicine for some aspect of their primary health care. Herbal remedies are very common in parts of Europe. In Germany, for example, herbal medications are dispensed by apothecaries. There, prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts and herbal teas. Many people prefer herbs to chemical medications which have been industrially produced. In the United Kingdom, the training of medical herbalists is done by state funded universities. In addition, many major pharmaceutical companies have a long history of some use of herbal remedies, including aspirin, opium, digitalis and quinine. Research continues and the search for drugs and dietary supplements derived from plants has expanded in recent years. According to the World Health Organization, approximately twenty-five percent of modern drugs in the United States have been derived from plants.

Some common herbs and their usage includes:

Catnip - insect repellent
Chamomile - relaxant, used to treat insomnia
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) - reduces severity and duration of symptoms of cold or flu
Feverfew - used to treat migraines
Garlic - antibiotic
Horehound - expectorant
Lavender - antiseptic, relaxant
Peppermint - used to treat irritable bowel syndrome
St. Johns Wort - antidepressant
Valerian - sedative, used to treat insomnia


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