I remember when I was a little girl, and if I ever complained of an upset stomach or a tummy ache, my grandmother would bring me this pink peppermint candy and a glass of ginger ale, and she'd say, "Take both of these things. It'll make your tummy feel better." Of course, I remember always feeling better. But what I didn't know at the time was that this was my first exposure to herbal medicine. You may be thinking, "Wait a minute, I've had peppermint candy. I've had ginger ale. Does this mean I've also been exposed to herbal medicine?" This is a over simplified way of using herbal medicine but the answer to that is yes. The definitions of herbal medicine can vary greatly and, honestly, there's no one agreed-upon definition. It really depends on who you ask and what their background is. But this is something that we'll be exploring in this lesson and discussing herbal medicine in both historical, as well as current medicinal use. There are many different definitions of herbal medicine and, honestly, it just depends on who you ask. I'm a person who likes to keep things simple. So, I'm going to define herbal medicine as simply the science of using plants to treat or prevent medical conditions. Many people use herbal medicines to directly treat a medical problem such as using butterbur acutely for a migraine headache. Others use them to help with symptom management, such as using aloe vera to soothe an irritated minor skin wound. Some herbals can even be used to help prevent illness, such as using cranberry in the prevention of urinary tract infections. Botanical and herbal are often used interchangeably and they essentially mean the same thing. I personally prefer the term botanical, however, because it broadens the definition to include the use of bark, seeds, roots, and stems of a plant. Whereas the term herb often implies simply using the leaves. Again, I like to keep things simple, so don't worry too much about semantics. Either definition is acceptable, but you'll hear me primarily use the term botanical in this course. Many people may also use the term phytotherapy. So, this is another term I want you to be familiar with and literally translated, it means plant therapy. In all honesty, I don't use this term very much, especially if I'm interacting with patients, because I think it makes things seem a lot more complicated. It can lead to confusion, and we don't want that especially when talking with patients. But I do want you to be aware of this definition as you may come across it in the field of botanical medicine. You may be wondering how long botanicals had been used to treat or prevent medical conditions. The answer is that their use has evolved right along with us as humans, as we learned which plants alleviated different physical ailments over a period of time. Even though it may seem like a new or trendy concept, humans all across the world have been using plants to treat medical conditions for literally thousands of years. Hippocrates, who was an ancient Greek physician and often referred to as the father of medicine, detailed using over 500 plants that could be used medicinally. We have similar such writings dating back from ancient times in other cultures also throughout the world. This really makes sense when you think about what tools people had at their disposal before the advent of modern medicine. Before we had antibiotics and high-tech medical lifesaving equipment, obviously, people had to rely on other things to help cure their medical ailments, and plants were truly one of the mainstays of treatment. If people used the incorrect plant or an ineffective plant, it literally could mean the difference between life and death. So, it really goes to show just how crucial these plants were to the survival of cultures all across the world. I had a unique experience when I visited Kenya several years ago. I visited a small rural village of nomadic goat herders, and I spoke with the chief of the tribe and he explained that every so often they would need to move the tribe to a different area so that their goat herds could graze. But, however, before he would move the herd, he always made sure that a certain tree was present. The reason for that is that the bark of the tree was used medicinally to help treat malaria. Malaria is a very common disease in parts of Africa and it can be life-threatening if it's not treated properly. So, this knowledge of this medicinal bark from this particular tree was crucial to the survival of this tribe. This story is not unique just to Kenya. All cultures across the world have relied on plants medicinally to help ensure their survival. This knowledge of botanicals is still relevant today even though we have rapidly evolving medical technology. In some developing countries, botanicals may still be used frequently due to economics or the lack of availability of pharmaceuticals. In developed nations, many pharmaceuticals have actually been derived from medicinal plants that have been studied in research labs. Medications such as aspirin, which is a common over-the-counter pain reliever, digoxin, which is a heart medicine, and quinine, which is an anti-malaria medication, are all pharmaceuticals that were originally derived from plants. There are many reasons, which we'll be discussing thoroughly in this course, that some patients choose to use botanicals in lieu of or in addition to pharmaceuticals. We've been discussing the history of botanical medicine. Does it still have a role today? It was my goal in this video to lay a foundation of key points for you to work from as you learn about botanical medicine. The main idea is that humans have always used herbal medicine and its use continues today, often in lieu of or in addition to pharmaceutical treatments for symptom management. While there are a number of interchangeable terms, I prefer to use the term botanical medicine and this is the term we will primarily use in this class.