The Problem with Drugs Based on Plants
A plant may have hundreds of different medicinal constituents. By focussing on just one or two, synthetic drugs ignore the synergistic effects of all the constituents in the plant working together.
Why does this matter?
When isolated, some single plant constituents may be toxic or contribute to drug resistance. Acetylsalicylic acid isolated from White Willow and made into chemical Aspirin may contribute to stomach ulcers. Yet taking White Willow does not carry these same risks. One can become resistant to the malaria drug Quinine, but less likely to its whole-plant source, Cinchona.
Salicylic acid and Quinine work closely with their fellow plant constituents as a team, reducing risk and increasing efficacy. The result is balanced, whole-herb medicine that the body can easily and safely absorb.
As you can see, the resulting drugs are mere shadows of the original plants.
The Decline of Herbal Medicine in the Western World
For the first time in history, plants were no longer the only medicine available. As a wide range of chemical drugs became readily available in the West, herbal medicine fell out of favour in North America. No longer the cheapest or most ‘cutting-edge’ option, plant medicine became the exclusive domain of Indigenous communities, herbalists and naturopaths.
In much of the Eastern world, traditional herbal medicine was still going strong.
Ancient Herbal Wisdom Backed by Modern Research
Although, today, China and India are now strong players in global pharmaceutical research and production, they are also global leaders in herbal scientific research; their modern data supports centuries of medical herbal usage. Perhaps reflective of this integrative medical approach, many of their citizens combine traditional herbal medicine with pharmaceuticals.
While North America and Europe continue to lead the global pharma space, their citizens are once again turning to herbal medicine for its powerful healing effects. Herbal supplements sales in North America increased by a whopping $3 billion from 2015 to 2020. This is attributed to a rise in health consciousness and enhanced attention towards preventative healthcare. With growing concerns of side effects from allopathic medicine, North Americans are gaining increasing confidence in botanical supplements. The pendulum is starting to swing back.
Now supported by solid scientific research, herbal medicine is experiencing a welcome renaissance in the West. Let’s take a look at the recent research behind a few key herbs, valued by ancient peoples for providing immune support.
Astragalus membranaceus has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to enhance immunity. Brimming with polysaccharides, flavonoids, astragalosides, and saponins, it works by activating our T cells and B cells. This gives our immune army the ammunition it needs to fight off infections. This amazing herb can also suppress tumours and reduce chemotherapy side effects.
Ganoderma (Reishi mushroom) was classified as a ‘superior herb’ over 2,400 years ago during the Shu Dynasty. Of the over 2,000 classes of Reishi, Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is in the top two identified by modern research as providing the most significant health benefits. Containing an astonishing 400 compounds (including triterpenoids and polysaccharides), Reishi provides holistic immune support by nourishing nearly every system in the body. It is referred to as ‘the mushroom of immortality’ with good reason!
The fruit of Schisandra chinensis is another ancient remedy getting modern scientific attention. Long used for immune support, new research reveals that its immune success is partly due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Andrographis paniculata is a vital part of 26 Indian Ayurvedic herbal formulas and has a strong place in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Known as the King of Bitters for its ability to soothe digestive distress, Andrographis is also a powerful defence against microbes, bacteria and viruses.
Recently approved in Thailand for early stages of COVID-19, Andrographis is proven to strengthen the immune system and stop viruses from replicating. With a particular affinity for the respiratory system, recent studies suggest that this herb may have a key role to play in COVID-19 prevention and treatment regimens.
Our Holistic Herb Approach
At St. Francis Herb Farm we’re proud to combine centuries of traditional knowledge with modern scientific research to produce the highest-quality herbal formulations.
Unlike pharmaceutical companies that use only specific plant constituents to create synthetic drugs, our Holistic Herb Approach recognizes that plant constituents are most effective when they work together. We use the best herbs, non-toxic extraction processes, and rigorous testing to preserve the herb’s vitality, high-quality, and effectiveness. This means you get the best of the whole plant: higher quality herbal medicine, and no potentially toxic single plant constituents.
Our carefully crafted herbal formulations add another layer of synergy. We love combining herbs that play well together! Our award-winning Deep Immune formula contains several of the herbs mentioned above, while our highly effective Virafect formula features Andrographis. In herbal medicine, the whole is truly more than the sum of its parts.