When we talk about alternative medicine we are talking about anything that is out of the realm of conventional. Conventional meaning allopathic, or what you get most of the time when you go to the “regular” doctor at the “regular” hospital. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different therapies out there in the world. Every country has its own natural or old-fashioned medicine, and almost every culture within every country does as well. The good news is that more and more “conventional” (allopathic) doctors are jumping on the band wagon and going toward a more naturopathic, holistic method of treating people.
For the next several weeks I am going to introduce a variety of alternative medical practices to you. Some of then you will probably have heard of before and some of them you probably won’t have. Whenever you are dealing with your own health, although there might be hundreds of options out there in the big, wide world for you to choose from, you may not feel comfortable with certain ones, and you may, on the other hand, feel more comfortable with others. That is natural. Also, just as you may or may not feel comfortable with a certain therapy, you also may not feel comfortable with the actual practitioner that you are dealing with. So, what I am going to do is give you some choices. Then it is up to you to sift through them and decide what is going to work for you.
The first therapy that I am going to talk about is probably the oldest of all. Herbal medicine, also known as herbology, could accurately be referred to as first medical therapy in all history. Probably even Adam and Eve used herbal remedies, even though there is no recorded history of it! But, that fact is that herbal medicine is practically as old as the hills, and its history has been written down since the beginnings of writing itself. Before that oral tradition was its method of transfer. In fact, archeological evidence has proven that as far back as 60,000 years ago Neanderthal man was actually using some of the same herbs that are used now. Still, to this day, there are native peoples all over the world who are still following their ancient traditional medicinal practices. These practices have been passed down from person to person, entirely through the spoken word, from healer to healer. They are still being used today because they work! If they didn’t, they would have been discarded long ago, in lieu of better alternatives.
The earliest written mention of herbal medicine came from China and was from around 2800 years ago. Even in that ancient time the Chinese had specific protocols for dealing with practically every illness and their cures involved herbal remedies, among other things. The fact is that practically every part of the world had an herbal tradition, even though many of them were never written down since they were being practiced by illiterate peoples. Even so, there is plenty of evidence for the use of herbal medicine all over the world by all types of indigenous natives of all lands. Also, every great empire and every great civilization, particularly the ones since the advent of the written word, have written herbal medical treatises to cover all of their indigenous herbs and their uses, along with any important information about their usage. The ancient Arabs, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Africans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and all of the more modern peoples from the East and West have a distinct herbal tradition based on the herbs that grow in that particular area of the world. So deeply ingrained and endemic are these traditions that even though there is a so-called Arabic herbal tradition, there is a difference between the desert Arab herbal tradition, the fertile crescent (Sham and surrounding areas) Arab traditions, and even the Arab folk of the inhabited areas of the Gulf region (such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other places) had another tradition that was clearly different from the others that was mostly based on the local, widely available herbs of the particular area.
As of late, a variety of governments have been and still are trying to regulate the use of herbal medicine (Kuwait is one of them). Some countries have succeeded (like Kuwait), and others have heard the cry of protest, and thus, were unable to adopt a strict policy, in spite of their efforts. This is a shame, in my opinion, because, although you are always going to have unscrupulous people in the world, the vast majority of the people are honest and conscientious about using herbal remedies. It’s only a few charlatans that are out to make a quick buck that make it their business to sell “herbal remedies” that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. So, do we all have to suffer for the ill behavior of a few? Most countries have decided to give people the benefit of the doubt. The UK and USA (among other countries) are still basically unregulated, and it’s only the target use of a few proven dangerous herbs (at the dosages that they were being used with) that has been regulated there. I would sincerely hope that all governments of all countries would take the ancient herbal traditions into consideration before making rash decisions, and only regulate those herbs that have been proven detrimental, along with those herb sellers and practitioners who deserve it (ie. unscrupulous herb sellers and herbal practitioners), while leaving the honest practitioners and those following in the footsteps of their ancient traditions alone.
In the next few weeks we will explore various herbal traditions, in addition to which we will also discuss several other alternative medical practices. We will go on an exciting journey that will take us all over the world, back through time, and then back to Kuwait, and you will discover many new and interesting therapeutic practices. You never know when you might just need to use one or more of them!