The Rise of Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine, also called botanical medicine or phytomedicine, is the therapeutic use of plants for medicinal purposes. It has a long tradition of use and was the original collection of remedies for all ailments, preceding conventional medical interventions. Recently, it has been re-emerging more into the mainstream and healthcare. This is due to improvements in herbal analysis, standardization, quality control, and advances in clinical research.
At the population level, the use of herbal supplements continues to grow considerably. The global herbal medicine market size was valued at about $152 million in 2021. It is projected to grow from $165.66 billion in 2022 to approximately $347 billion by 2029. Overall, it is estimated that nearly one-third of Americans use herbs.
Unfortunately, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 70% of people taking herbal medicines were reluctant to tell their doctors about it. This can have safety risks due to potential interactions and quality issues.
Quality Control of Herbal Medicine
In the United States, herbals supplements are classified as dietary supplements by the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. This means they must be made according to Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). Although they are not necessarily tested for efficacy by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) prior to their release, they are regulated for safety post-marketing. Furthermore, there are many reputable companies that go through excessive quality control measures and third-party testing to produce standardized, safe, and effective therapeutic herbals.
Many people who use essential oils also use herbs. They are familiar with how these quality measures and knowledge of the plant is paramount to obtain the desired outcomes without unintended effects.
Since 1964, Ellen has been studying natural medicine. She has gained her profound knowledge through traveling the world and learning from both conventional educational settings and through immersing herself in ancient traditions with masters and shamans.
Ellen is a passionate educator. Not only is she a professor, but she is also a sought-after speaker, radio show host, author, and traditional healer. Further, Ellen eagerly shares her vast knowledge through many educational opportunities.
I have had the privilege of learning from Ellen through the years through various continuing education webinars, her radio shows, and through her courses.
In this interview, Ellen empowers us with information on how to integrate herbs and essential oils wisely into a healthy lifestyle. We also explore why natural therapeutics aren’t integrated into Western medicine. Additionally, Ellen provides us with many wonderful tools and tips on how to become better educated to further deepen our understanding and appreciation for the power of plants.
Below is an overview of the show and the major topics covered, but be sure to catch the full episode so you don’t miss any of this incredible conversation.
How a Horseback Riding Incident Got the Natural Nurse into Natural Medicine
Ellen shares how her journey into natural medicine began with a horseback riding accident. On a slippery, muddy day of horse jumping, her horse lost its footing and fell on top of her. Being severely injured, Ellen was taken to the hospital. When she was seen by the surgeon, Ellen was told that she likely would not walk again without surgery and that she would be confined to a wheelchair until the operation.
At the ripe-old-age of eleven years old, Ellen took matters into her own hands! She went to the library to find answers, which had card catalogs at the time. There, she discovered a whole world of healing therapeutics. She began avidly researching and ordering natural remedies with the help of father. As a result, Ellen incorporated arnica, white willow bark, calcium, magnesium, Boswellia (frankincense), and Chinese herbs into her healing protocol.
Ellen fastidiously took notes to document her improvements, sometimes noting a shift within days! By the time Ellen returned to the surgeon, she was walking!
Ellen thought the surgeon would be excited, but he dismissed her remedies. She was told her approach was based on “old wives’ tales” and falsehoods.
At that moment, Ellen decided that she would investigate these healing methods and prove that they did work. From that point on, she continued learning from her Greek grandmother and embarked to travel the world to learn from ancient healers. To this day, Ellen continues to research and visit foreign lands. Her training in holistic nursing further incorporates and honors the traditional medicine she revers.
I can truly relate to Ellen’s passion of bridging science with the ancient wisdom of traditional medicine.
Keeping Natural Medicine Available
During the show, Ellen informed me that there was a recent removal of homeopathy remedies from pharmacy shelves. She was concerned about keeping them available to the public.
I noted how the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) has gotten in touch FDA. The AANP is advocating for the broad use of remedies by trained professionals and to allow for OTC remedies, as long as they are not being marketed for serious illnesses.
Studies on the efficacy of homeopathy for various issues have been published. For example, according to a 2021 article review:
Arnica has been used in homeopathic medicine for centuries for dozens of pathological conditions, including joint and muscle pain, inflammation, and arthritis . Arnica has various pharmacologic activities, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial, antirheumatic, antiarthritic, and antineoplastic activities . Although Arnica is still used for these alternate indications, ingestible formulations are not utilized in modern therapies due to their cytotoxic properties . Some homeopathic treatments may use highly diluted Arnica preparations for internal uses, although topical administration is most common .
The authors conclude, “Arnica could be an adjunct therapeutical approach for acute and chronic pain management.”
You can see more studies on homeopathy research here.
Combining Herbs and Essential Oils
Herbs, aromatics, and essential oils differ in their extraction methods, preparation, and manufacturing. This results in different chemical profiles and active constituents of the same plant species. Furthermore, quality, harvesting, dosing, and manufacturing will also determine the safety of the final product and its mechanisms of action.
Ellen notes that she doesn’t use essential oils very much internally, which differs from my approach. I do use them with clients orally, with precautions. We both agree that if you do use this method, you should be knowledgeable and know what you are doing. (Jade Shutes and I discuss more about internal use of essential oils in episode 378.)
Ellen gave us an example of how you can combine herbs and essential oils in a holistic manner, such as using echinacea and oregano oil for an immune challenge. She also discussed using homeopathy, Sambucus, Chinese medical herbs, and eucalyptus oil for respiratory challenges.
The Importance of Herbal-Drug Interactions and Safe Use of Natural Therapeutics
When using herbs, it is vital to be aware of herbal-drug interactions, especially if one is taking drugs with narrow, therapeutic ranges. There are different kinds of interactions that can occur, with herbs influencing medication levels and actions.
This does not mean herbs should be avoided. For example, herbs that have additive effects with medication could lead to increased efficacy of a drug. If monitored, they could be used together and this could potentially decrease the dose of the drug and its side effects.
In fact, overall herbs are quite safe. Ellen feels they should be used first and that medication should be kept to a minimum due to the high amount of adverse effects that can occur. For example, properly prescribed medications are a major leading cause of death in America.
According to the CDC:
Adverse drug events cause approximately 1.3 million emergency department visits each year. About 350,000 patients each year need to be hospitalized for further treatment after emergency visits for adverse drug events. People typically take more medicines as they age, and the risk of adverse events may increase as more people take more medicines.
We also discuss that media will often will overhype dangers of natural modalities. For instance, the annoyingly, repetitive, and unfounded headlines that claim that tea tree and lavender oils have estrogenic effects.
How to Learn More About Herbal Medicine and Essential Oils
Ellen provides us with information on how to access research on herbal remedies through PubMed. From my experience with working with conventional doctors, many are open to learning more when they see the scientific data.
EMFs and Essential Oils
Ellen’s DIY is legendary. She tells us how essential oils, based on their frequency and ability to impact our DNA, can help keep our immune systems strong and protect our bodies against electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs). Rose and lavender are two examples she mentions. She additionally states that wheatgrass can also be used to shield EMFs. (Here’s a handout Ellen provided on this topic.)
This led us to discuss DNA testing and epigenetics. We talk about how our genetics are not our destiny. Through integrative medicine (IM) and mindful-based practices, we have the ability to “turn on” genes that are health promoting and “turn down” molecular signals that are harmful. (Here’s a link to learn more about essential oils and epigenetics.)
You won’t want to miss the full episode!
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Bio of Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, AHG, AHN-BC, The Natural Nurse®:
Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, AHG, AHN-BC, The Natural Nurse, is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG) and is nationally board certified as a Holistic Nurse (AHN-BC). She attended Rutgers and Cornell Universities and has sat on the Panel of Traditional Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical School. She currently serves on the Education Committee of the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) and on the Cannabis Committee of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). Ellen is also a Medical School Instructor and teaches Botanical Pharmacology
Ellen is a leader in the nutraceutical industry. She has advanced credentials and experience as a formulator, product developer, and a regulatory consultant. She is the author of many books including The Natural Medicine Chest, Arthritis, the Alternative Medicine Guide, Cycles of Life, Herbs and Energy Techniques for the stages of a Woman’s Life, The Natural Guide to Great Sex, and the Definitive Guide to Weight Loss, the Alternative Medicine Guide. Ellen is also on the peer review editorial boards of various journals.
Ellen provides group and individual online certification educational modules in all aspects of holistic health including herbal medicine, essential oil therapy, and energy medicine. She also offers personal health consultations, teaches various courses, mentors medical professionals, and loves to lead herbal walks and tours for the public. Find her at https://www.naturalnurse.com/.
Website/Links to Learn More About Ellen Kahmi, the Natural Nurse, and Her Offerings
- Natural Nurse Website
- Articles by the Natural Nurse
- Natural Support for Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disease (Journal of Restorative Medicine)
- Herbally Yours – since 1990, Nassau Community College, Garden City, NY (Tues 3:30 pm & Sun 10:30 pm EST)
- Natural Nurse and Dr. Z – PRN FM Radio (Tuesdays at 10-11 AM EST)
- Integrative Wellness- Bridgeport, CT (Sundays 8-10am Eastern)
- Natural Alternatives – Stony Brook, NY (6-7pm EST)
Eco-Tours Herbal Identification and Medicine Making
- Chinatown Herb Walks
- Eco-Tours for Cures® Trips to Jamaica
- Local Edible and Medicinal Weed Walks – Make Your Own: Tinctures, Salves, Herbal Home Remedies!
Naturopathic Medicine and Holistic Resources for Hormonal, Mood, and Digestive Support
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- Tools for coping with isolation and separation.
- The Essential Oil Revolution Podcast
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.