History of Herbs as Medicines and Remedies

Kathleen Roberts
Chemist and author Shane Ellison

The history of herbs as medicines and remedies is fascinating. You will be surprised to find out how important herbs are to the pharmaceutical industry, even though most doctors are not supportive of herbs used medicinally. Read the following interview and see how important herbs really are.

History of Herbs as Medicines and Remedies

The history of herbs as medicines and remedies dates back to the beginning of time. In fact, scientists discovered a frozen "ice man" in the Swiss Alps. This body, which was more than 5300 years old, had evidence of medicinal herbs used to treat parasites.

All peoples, all over the world, use herbs to treat and prevent illness. Even animals are known to seek out plants when they are ill. Yet today, those who practice herbalism are treated as though they are strange or unintelligent by many in the medical community. Are herbs a past art, no longer useful to us today. Absolutely not!

Herbs are still very valuable today even in modern cultures. In the following interview with Shane Ellison, organic chemist, author and herbal expert. Learn the value of herbs as medicine today.

Interview with Shane Ellison

Herbs as Medicine

LoveToKnow: How important are herbs in the development of new drugs?

Shane Ellison: To obtain new drugs, pharmaceutical chemists, like myself, rigorously study herbs, or what we call "natural products." Once a single active ingredient is identified a chemist makes a "copy-cat." The drug company then calls it their own. If the study of natural products did not exist then drugs would not be possible.

LTK: How many medications today are based on herbal discoveries?

SE: All of them.

LTK: Can you mention some of the drugs that are herbal based?

SE: Pseudoephedrine is an ingredient found in over-the-counter cough syrup. It is a knock-off of the active ingredients found in "Mormon tea." In 2004, the Annals of Emergency Medicine noted that pseudoephedrine is so damaging to the heart that it can elicit a heart attack among users - even healthy ones. In sharp contrast, naturally-occurring Mormon tea can be safely used as a cough suppressant. Today however, it is black listed while pseudoephedrine remains on the shelves of every corner grocery store in America.

Ritalin and many other stimulants are knock-offs of the active ingredients found in ma huang AKA ephedra. Ritalin is an amphetamine. As such, it can cause addiction and brain cell death. Despite false propaganda, Ma huang is a safe and effective stimulant that increases mental focus without damaging the body. Ma huang is black listed while Ritalin is dispensed to children.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs (Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, etc.) known as statins are knock-offs of the natural ingredient found in red yeast rice. Akin to the drugs, red yeast rice can dangerously lower cholesterol and CoQ10 levels within your body. Like statins, it is not advisable to use red yeast rice to lower cholesterol. Both are poisons.

As a side note, if cholesterol-lowering drugs were the billion dollar panacea that drug companies claim them to be, we could all eat red yeast rice at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, they are not.

Aspirin (TM), the drug that your doctor tells you to take every day, is a knock-off of the active ingredient found in white willow bark. The side effects of Aspirin (TM) are so severe that they can cause a higher death rate relative to the populations who do not take it. Rarely brought to the attention of users, aspirin depletes the body of the essential nutrient folic acid. White willow bark is virtually unknown yet remains a safe and effective alternative to Aspirin (TM) for pain relief and any purported cardiovascular benefits.

The list goes on. Most would be shocked to know that even painkillers and anticancer drugs were derived from natural sources. The tiny family of prescription pain killers used by doctors are knock offs of the natural ingredients found in opium. Naturally occurring opium is safer and less addictive than the fast-acting drug knock-offs morphine, codeine, and oxycodone.

Baicalein, an anti-cancer drug used among those who suffer from leukemia, is a knock-off of the active ingredient found in the roots of Chinese skullcap (Scuterllaria baicalensis). Chinese skullcap is a safe and effective natural cancer fighter that induces cell suicide (apoptosis) among leukemia-derived cancer cells.

Purchasing Herbal Products

LTK: How can consumers be sure they are buying quality herbs?

SE: That's hard. Anyone, even "Aunt Helga" can sell supplements. Many adulterants can exist and the formulations vary wildly. That's why I wrote Over-The-Counter Natural Cures. I wanted to teach people how to find lifesaving supplements under $10. In general, avoid those loaded with sugar and artificial flavors as well as soybean oil.

LTK: Any brands that are especially recommended?

SE: I like Jarrow brand supplements. Lewis Labs and Rite Aid brands also have some very well formulated products, as does Nature's Valley from Walmart. But you still have to know what to look for like the type of capsule. Veggie caps tend to dissolve slow, while gelatin are notoriously fast, thereby delivering the active ingredients faster and enhancing absorption.

Using Herbs

LTK: Can herbs be used along with medications to enhance them?

SE: Not really. There are lots of interactions and many drugs counter the effect of herbs. Drugs are just too dangerous.

LTK: How can someone benefit from herbs if their doctor doesn't believe in using them?

SE: Find a doctor that supports their decision and is willing to learn and work with them!

LTK: What else should everyone understand about using herbs and medications?

SE: Nothing is guaranteed. Natural medicine should always be the first line of defense. Drugs are not vitamins, and should only be used in emergency.

Final Notes

LTK: What else would you like to share?

SE: There are life-saving distinctions between a drug and its natural-based predecessor. A prescription drug is a single isolate. A nutritional product contains a multitude of active substances. This distinction makes drugs more dangerous and less effective than natural sources.

As a single isolate, a drug does not target the underlying cause of illness. It only masks symptoms. Further, a drug isolate has no "buffers" to offset negative side-effects. In sharp contrast, natural products utilize an array of ingredients to attack the illness at its core while striving to mitigate negative side-effects.

If safe and effective, then why don't drug companies distribute natural products? The answer is very simple. They clash with the drug-company business model. Natural medicine cannot be patented and subsequently monopolized. Only dangerous, man-made prescription drugs carry patent rights. And this is what satisfies a drug company's voracious appetite for wealth.


LoveToKnow would like to thank Shane Ellison for this informative interview. Shane Ellison is the author of the upcoming book Over-The-Counter Natural Cures to be published by SourceBooks in October of 2009. He holds a masters degree in drug design (organic chemistry) and is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Grant for his studies in biochemistry and physiology. He's been quoted by USA Today, Shape, Woman's World, and Women's Health and has served as guest speaker for large corporations like BP. You can get a sneak peek of his new book by downloading his Avoid Cancer Now chapter by signing up at his website.

History of Herbs as Medicines and Remedies