As a herbalist, part of my work involves the need to keep up with current research. Actually, as a bit of a science geek, it is a part I really enjoy. And especially I have to admit that it is very satisfying when published research supports years of traditional herbal use. Particularly when previous unfavourable scientific theories about herbs are shown to be incorrect. Now scientists are realising that the gut microbiome can transform herbal constituents into new compounds. So, we are seeing research that explains how herbal medicines work from a modern perspective.
With the rise of research into the gut microbiome scientists are finding that the gut microbiome has important roles that were previously unknown. One of these roles is the conversion of herbal constituents that scientists believed to be inert. And these new compounds are often powerful remedies that the body can use.
Of course, herbalists have known all along that herbal medicines can provide powerful healing benefits. But, in some cases, there may not have been a known mechanism of medicine action. Now, with the new understanding of the effects of the gut microbiome, we are learning how at least some of these amazing remedies can have powerful effects on the body. Sometimes benefits that were previously dismissed by the scientific community. So, once again we find that science supports what people have known for centuries.
But is there even more to it?
However, taking this one step further, with this new understanding of the microbiome, there is an explanation of why some herbs, and indeed some prescribed drugs do not work for everyone.
Every person has a unique gut microbiome, a bit like a fingerprint. This uniqueness can now explain the importance of a healthy gut environment and a wide diversity of microbial species. After all, if a person does not have the particular species of microbe that is able to convert a herb (or drug) into the active medicinal components then the herb (or drug) may not work for that person.
So, this new understanding of how herbal medicines work underlines the fact that good gut health is a key component for maintaining and improving health in general.