Synopsis of traditions and origins of world herbs in clinical practice

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In our day-to-day hurried professional lives, it is useful to reflect upon how a current accepted use for herbs evolved from traditional use then melds with contemporary science-always a snapshot in time- to become the use we recognise today.

The Ayurvedic herb,Bacopa monnieri, sold as bacopa or brahmi, is perceived as useful for cognitive-enhancing and neuroprotective effects for age-related cerebral function. American herbalists are surprised to learn that the exotic Ayurvedic herb from India, bacopa, is actually a pantropic weed which grows in 14 states in the United States, an obligate wetland weed that may be found only a few meters from a herbalist's front door!

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) product sales have dropped by over 40 per cent in the last five years in the United States. That drop in sales can be linked to the fact that very cheap extracts have entered the wholesale market with a wide range of adulterants. Professionals prescribing products need to know what they are selling and consumers must have confidence in what they are buying.

It is incumbent upon herbalists to understand the source plants used in clinical practice; to know not only what a current herb book or product information sheet reveals, but also how to explore the herb's traditions and science along with its flavour and fragrance. Ultimately, a herbalist needs to know the herbs themselves. In all its iterations, herbal knowledge is a multi- and inter-disciplinary pursuit encompassing the diversity of living beings on Earth.

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