Botanical medicine, also known as phytotherapy, herbal medicine or herbalism, is a branch of naturopathy which uses various types of plants (and occasionally other natural substances) as medicinal agents in the treatment of disease. The World Health Organization estimates that botanicals are the major form of medicine for two thirds of the world’s population and that 80% use botanicals regularly to some degree.
Botanical medicines can offer an inexpensive and safe alternative to many pharmaceuticals. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that in the U.S. 106,000 patients died from and 2.2 million were seriously injured by adverse effects of pharmaceuticals in 1994. But just as pharmaceuticals have risks and side effects, so do botanicals.
It’s a common misconception that “natural” means “safe”. Botanicals can interact with other substances you may be taking, such as medications, vitamins, and food. Before you take any botanical, check that it’s safe for you by consulting a naturopathic doctor, an accredited herbalist or a pharmacist.