Plants have been used in treatments since the dawn of time. Phytotherapy has become the “modern” version of alternative medicine that treats and prevents certain diseases or disorders by using plants.
Phytotherapy is considered to be a complement to traditional medicine. Please note that the use of plants in medical care is subject to national legislation.
Herbal medicines are often available without a prescription; however, it is best to seek professional advice from a pharmacist, herbalist, doctor, or naturopath before starting treatment.
INDICATIONS FOR HERBAL MEDICINE
The indications for phytotherapy are as numerous as the plant varieties, hence the interest in them!
A common use is the consumption of herbal teas with digestive properties that help the stomach, bile ducts, or intestines. Calming plants would be linden, passionflower, verbena, and camomile. But phytotherapy is much more and can be an interesting alternative to traditional medicine if used with caution and with the right indications because plants can also have their contraindications and can interact with other medications.
Plants are remedies for many illnesses and have the following uses:
- Cranberry for cystitis.
- Red yeast rice to treat high cholesterol, thanks to monacolin which acts like a statin.
- Harpagophytum (devil’s claw) for its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Grapefruit seed extract for its anti-infectious properties, particularly for herpes or intestinal parasites.
- The red vine for its treatment of venous circulation (varicose veins, haemorrhoids).
- St. John’s wort to treat minor depression. It recaptures serotonin inhibitors like some modern antidepressants.
THE DIFFERENT PREPARATIONS
Phytotherapy uses the roots, stems, flowers, and leaves of medicinal plants according to various uses. There are several preparations of these plants or plant extracts: herbal teas, powders, capsules, extracts etc.
Herbal teas easily allow for the use of both fresh or dried plants. They are prepared in this way:
- infusion (hot water is poured over a plant or a mixture of plants)
- or maceration (in cold water)
- or decoction (the plant is left in boiling water for a period of time)
In herbal teas, only the water-soluble active ingredients will be ingested by the patient. The plants are not ingested.
Plants can be used in capsules or as a powder. The plant is ground into a powder and put into capsules. In this case, all its components are absorbed by the patient with a greater risk of toxicity.
Herbal preparations can also be extracted. To obtain extracts we have to evaporate the preparation into a solution by treating the plant substance with a vaporizable solvent (alcohol, ether, water, or a mixture of these solvents) until we obtain a fluid with a soft or dry consistency.
For plants that degrade rapidly after harvest, the intra-plant technique is used. To avoid any chemical reaction, the plant is stabilised by hot water or alcohol vapours and then dried in a hot air stream. The stabilised plant is exhausted by the alcohol, the evaporation of which leaves the so-called intrait.
Obtained by an integral suspension of fresh plants (SIPF), the tincture is a liquid medicine resulting from the dissolving action of ethyl alcohol (60°, 70°, 80°, 90°) on previously divided dry plant powders.
The highly original stabilisation and conservation process preserves the integrity of the plant.
It can be an emollient, softening and sedative, or repellent and warming. The soft paste is applied to the skin.
They are obtained by the distillation of the plant. They are used in aromatherapy.
In Switzerland, phytosanitary medicinal products are governed by ordonnance 812 212 24 of 7 September 2018 entitled Ordonnance de l’Institut suisse des produits thérapeutiques sur l’autorisation simplifiée et la procédure de déclaration des médicaments complémentaires et des phytomédicaments.
Doctor Denise Cazivassilio,
General Practitioner, Sport Doctor