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What Are the Different Types of Alternative Herbal Medicine?

By Lumara Lee
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are number of different types of alternative herbal medicine systems, including aromatherapy, flower essences, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Various methods can be used to administer the alternative herbal medicine as well. These include tinctures, pills, poultices, injections, and teas or infusions. Essential oils are also an important component of some alternative herbal medicine treatments.

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative herbal medicine that employs the essential oils distilled from various plants to improve a person’s physical and/or mental condition. These oils may be sniffed, added to bath water, or mixed with another type of oil and massaged into the skin. The oils of different plants are believed to offer different healing benefits. For example, marjoram and bergamot can relieve stress and anxiety, while rosemary and peppermint oils are mental stimulants. Lemon is good for digestive and circulatory disorders, and tea tree oil fights infection and strengthens the immune system.

In the 1930s, a physician named Dr. Edward Bach found that the essences distilled from flowers had properties that could help people deal with various mental and emotional states. He developed the 38 essences that eventually came to be known as Bach Flower Remedies. Some of the popular flower essences and their indications are star of Bethlehem for shock, rock rose for severe anxiety and panic, and mimulus for fear.

These 38 essences can be used individually or in combination. Rescue Remedy is one of the most popular combinations. It is sold in health food stores and can be used on both humans and animals for severe anxiety and emotional trauma. Dr. Bach believed that relieving emotional conditions with flower essences would eventually lead to physical healing.

TCM employs herbs as part of its healing methodology. In Chinese alternative herbal medicine, herbs are classified into categories. Some of these categories are heating and cooling and yin and yang. According to TCM, disease is caused by a blockage in the flow of energy in the body. The TCM practitioner determines which meridians or energy pathways are blocked, and then prescribes herbs known to restore energy flow to that area.

Throughout the centuries, different cultures developed their own systems of healing. Many of these cultural medical systems included what is known today as alternative herbal medicine. The Internet has made it possible for this information to be widely disseminated, so people have more options in medical care than ever before.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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