Phytotherapy: an introduction for people who don’t float

Phytotherapy is a difficult word for what is popularly called herbal medicine. With the help of plant material administered in certain ways, all kinds of diseases and ailments could be cured. Critics talk about quackery and point out the possible dangers when these types of drugs are administered instead of regular medicine.

Centuries-old history

Since ancient times, plants have been used to cure all kinds of ailments and diseases. The Chinese have a rich history when it comes to medicinal herbs. But plants have also been used in Europe for their medicinal values since time immemorial.

Some examples

When we look at current phytotherapy, we see that for every ailment there is a possible remedy in phytotherapy. Some of these are recognized by mainstream medicine as effective remedies, but the majority are in a gray area due to a lack of scientific evidence. For example, pineapple is said to help with cellulite, local fat deposits and disturbed blood sugar levels. It is known in science that pineapple can make a positive contribution to weight loss, but it has never been shown that it specifically combats cellulite or local fat deposits. Another example that is less in the shade is Ginkgo Biloba, which can be used to combat fatigue and energy deficiencies.


Scientists criticize Phytotherapy that research is often lacking and that claims are often made that are therefore not demonstrable. In addition, many plants contain toxic substances. Even something as simple as leafy greens, for example, contains a small amount of toxins. That is why we usually cook them, this breaks down the toxic substance making the leafy vegetables healthy for us. One of the remedies often praised by herbalists is St. John’s wort. This is prescribed for depression and is said to be very effective. However, mainstream medicine is anything but happy with this. St. John’s wort, for example, does not work for severe depression and has many interactions with existing medications.


Although it has been used for centuries, herbal medicine is not an adequate substitute for regular medicine. Of course it can make a positive contribution to your health, but one should always consult a doctor in case of serious complaints rather than simply taking certain herbal preparations. In some cases, such as the aforementioned example of St. John’s wort, it can even have very negative consequences.

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