Phytotherapy – treatment with plants (from the Greek. phyton – plant and therapeia – treatment).
Phytotherapy can be defined as a set of therapeutic measures using herbal medicines. It should be emphasized that phytotherapy is a clinical discipline that necessarily involves the process of treatment. Like all clinical areas, it focuses the entire body of knowledge, primarily biological and medical, for reasoning and performing a therapeutic action – a therapeutic process. Understanding the theoretical foundations is a necessary condition for the study and practical application of herbal medicine. It can be stated that to this day, there is a different attitude towards herbal medicine both in medical, scientific circles, and in everyday life.
Phytotherapy, like any other therapeutic measures, should be considered primarily in the professional (and therefore scientific) medical field. It should be understood that medicine is one. The division into “traditional” and “non-traditional” is conditional. Behind the difference between these terms is only a historical and ethnographic meaning: how typical this method is for a given area and what are the historical traditions of its application. Even the philosophical component must be adapted to modern scientific medicine, since philosophy (ideology) significantly affects the methodology of the medical field. We have to deal with situations when using the terms “traditional” or “alternative medicine”, herbal medicine, and some other areas (reflexology, homeopathy, manual therapy …) seem to be taken out of the professional scientific field, declaring some of their theoretical foundations, their own path development. Of course, points of view may differ, but it should be remembered that it is science that is the system of knowledge that reflects objective reality. It serves as a filter and operating environment for the development of any idea.
With good reason, phytotherapy can be attributed to biological methods of treatment (biotherapy), since it is assumed that biological agents in the biological environment affect biological objects (biosystems). We define biotherapy as an expedient biomodification of the structure and functions of the body at all levels using its own resources and (or) biomaterials.
Phytotherapy has enough real distinctive features, which, taking into account historical traditions, gives the right to consider it as an independent discipline. In practical medicine, phytotherapy is considered as a method of treatment, although it would be more correct in this case to speak of a complex of specific methods. Phytotherapeutic agents can be used by doctors of different specialties.
Phytotherapy is often referred to as traditional medicine and on this basis it is concluded that this is an unscientific method of treatment. To resolve doubts, let us clarify the meaning of the term “traditional medicine”. Folk medicine should be considered as a set of knowledge, skills, traditions, habits, techniques that are used by residents of a certain area for healing, treatment and prevention of diseases.
In order to draw a line between official (official) medicine and traditional medicine, it is enough to look at traditional medicine as a household medicine that exists outside of medical institutions. There is household herbal medicine (or folk, because it is loved by the people), just like there is household surgery, therapy, and even gynecology. It is not necessary to oppose traditional skills to the corresponding areas of medicine; it is more correct to consider them as the initial steps of a high ladder of special knowledge.
Due to historical and natural conditions, herbal medicine for Russia is a national, cult method. The normal course of events is when the experience of the past is taken into account, enriched with new knowledge, and based on a qualified interpretation of the past, present and predicted future, an algorithm for a more effective solution to a particular problem is created.
Information base of herbal medicine
In modern herbal medicine, as an independent scientific discipline, there are several main components that determine its development.
Legacy of the past. The study of recipes and descriptions of the treatment of diseases of various medical schools: Russian, Tibetan, Indian, Greek and others. This is essentially an analysis of the centuries-old medical experience of mankind. Expert and statistical processing of treatment protocols, archival materials turns these testimonies into scientific data, which are subsequently subjected to experimental and clinical verification. Moreover, information about the treatment with plants in some remote Siberian village or on a small island in the Indian Ocean can be no less significant than that obtained in the largest scientific centers.
Information about the healing effects of medicinal plants, collected bit by bit, is invaluable, especially if they relate to serious diseases (cancer, diabetes, etc.). They are essentially the result of pharmacological clinical trials – complex and expensive studies. Such information can save lives, cure many people.That is why, we consider it inappropriate to neglect the folk experience in the use of plants, even if it is obtained empirically. In this case, the competence of the source of information and the qualifications of the phytotherapist himself are of particular importance. At a minimum, such experience is a source of ideas and factual material for a comparative analysis of means and methods of treatment.
Pharmacognosy studies medicinal plants, as well as products of primary processing of plant and animal origin. Man is a biosystem, and spare parts from it are found only in living nature. If in the old days the empirical experience of determining the expediency of using certain plants prevailed, then with the development of biology and chemistry, it became possible to create a scientific base. A new original system of coordinates has appeared, a set of biological and chemical features that characterize a particular plant or dosage forms from them. This is a complex, constantly growing system of knowledge that has not yet been fully exploited.
Phytopharmacology studies the interaction of plants and their extracts with living organisms. Formulating such a definition, we use a direct analogy with the interpretation of the generally accepted term “pharmacology” (Greek pharmacon – medicine; logos – teaching) – the science of the interaction of chemical compounds with living organisms. Phytopharmacology is the most important scientific component of herbal medicine. They can and should be considered only in conjunction, since, first of all, phytopharmacology makes modern phytotherapy an evidence-based, scientific discipline. Knowledge of pharmacotherapeutic properties allows the reasonable use of plants in the treatment of various diseases. These data can only be obtained by experimental and clinical pharmacological studies.
Further study of the etiology and pathogenesis, patterns of development and course of diseases and the search for a biologically expedient variant of exposure to phytochemicals. All the latest achievements in pathomorphology and pathophysiology should be taken into account, since it is on the basis of these data that an accurate idea of the disease is formed. In turn, phytochemicals can be considered as a kind of tool for studying the organism (bioprobes). Knowing the chemical composition and properties of plants, studying the reactions to them, one can judge the state of functional systems, the nature of their interaction, and much more.