Wellness dictionary

Little ABC for your spa-break questions ...

In their treatment discriptions, wellness hotels often use technical terms, which are hard to understand for potential guests. We have therefore collected and defined the most relevant terms in our small wellness ABC. A tip: Our wellness dictionary also supports word requests. You don't need to know the exact wording.


Phytotherapy: What is it?

Phytotherapy or herbal medicine is the treatment and prevention of diseases using plants, parts of plants and their preparation in the form of powder, tea, extract or tincture.

History of phytotherapy

Since time immemorial, people in all parts of the world have used plants and their constituents to treat diseases. For many thousands of years, health and illness were considered to be conditions that man owes to spirits, demons, gods or a god. Accordingly, averting illness was closely linked to magic and faith. The explanations of the effects of medicinal herbs were also closely related to this.

Phytotherapy: The theory of signatures

The selection of a plant for the treatment of disease was made a long time after the so-called signature theory. It was assumed that plants, in their shape and colour, carry a God-given sign of which diseases they can cure. For example, the walnut, whose furrows resemble those of the brain, was thought to be able to cure headaches. The experience of which methods proved to be helpful was then passed down from generation to generation and thus entered the treasure of medicines. Many medicinal plants are still used today on the basis of this experience.

As the chemical industry developed more and more in the 19th century, the production of synthetic medicines came more and more to the fore.

Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, the composition of most herbal medicines was still unknown, as almost all doctors trained in natural sciences preferred synthetically produced medicines. However, many modern medicines are derived directly or in modified form from plants, such as the gout medicine colchicine from the Autumn Season, or the painkiller aspirin or ASS, whose active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid is derived from willow bark. Then modern research into herbal medicines began at universities. Today's phytotherapy is based on their results. 

Phytotherapy today 

Phytotherapy also works with industrially produced finished medicinal products, so-called phytopharmaceuticals, which have been approved by the federal authorities. In order to produce phytopharmaceuticals, an extract is produced from the plants - depending on the process - and is partially concentrated, dried or otherwise processed. What a product ultimately contains is usually not known exactly and varies depending on the production method, climate, storage, light conditions or harvest. However, the manufacturer has to prove how the product works and what side effects it has in order for the Federal Institute for Drugs to approve the product as a drug. An important point in the quality assurance of phytopharmaceuticals is that they should be standardised as far as possible. This means that they should contain a certain amount of at least one main active ingredient.

In general, it should be remembered that medicinal plants - like other drugs - can only be used for a limited period of time, as the effects of long-term use of most drugs have not been researched. It should also be noted that the use of herbal remedies is generally associated with the risk of allergic reactions.

The difference between homeopathy and phytotherapy

Even though homeopathy and herbal medicine are often equated, they actually have nothing to do with each other. The equation is based on the fact that plant parts are often used as the basis in homeopathy. As a rule, however, these are usually strongly diluted. In addition, basic substances in homeopathy can also be non-herbal elements. 

What they have in common, however, is that both take a holistic approach and rely on the activation of the self-healing powers.

With phytotherapy through the menopause 

Some extracts derived from phytotherapy are good for relieving menopausal symptoms. These include monk's pepper, grape silver candle or cimicifuga rootstock.

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