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Herbalism - Ethnoscience Glossary Terms and Abbreviations

Herbal medicine may have been humanity's first attempt at a synthesis of conditions and corresponding treatments. Thousands of years ago, humanity was in its infancy and so was medical treatment. The very first treatments were likely the herbs and flowers that people found in their immediate surroundings. However, herbal medicine has come a long way since those early days of human civilization. In fact, the words 'herbal' and 'natural' seem to be everywhere. People in western countries are flocking to the stores to buy lotions with lavender, tea with chamomile and even cleaning products are being infused with natural and herbal elements. Today's herbalists engage in training and they must be certified to practice. Although many advancements have been made in our understanding of what herbs can do and our preparations of herbal remedies, there are still concerns about the safety of these remedies.
"Safety issues related to herbal medicine are complex: possible toxicity of herbal constituents, presence of contaminants or adulterants, and potential interactions between herbs and prescription drugs" (Ernst, 2004, p.985). Given these concerns why is it that herbal remedies have become so popular and what is it that people and practitioners can do to ensure the remedies are safe and appropriate? One of the reasons for the increasing popularity of herbal remedies is the same reason for the boom in homeopathy and TCM. People are looking for natural answers to their problems. In fact there is a larger irony here. On the conventional side of medicine there are concerns over the safety of herbs and other alternative remedies. Yet, many people carry the same concern regarding pharmaceutical medicines and conventional treatments. People worry about radiation from CT scans and MRI's. They wonder whether the medicines they're taking won't cause serious side effects as is the case with many medicines, which have had to be taken off the shelf permanently.

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