Phyto therapy, or Herbal Medicine is one of the oldest medical treatments found in all cultures. The whole plant or parts of it, e.g. flowers, leaves, roots, are used in various ways, as fresh herbs, or pulverized and dried, but also as infusion, or decoction (boiled). When preparing a decoction or infusion it is essential that the plants boil with a closed lid, because during this process therapeutic essential oils are released. These are particularly volatile and would otherwise be lost.
A number of effective drugs come from plants or are developed from plant materials, like the red foxglove (Digitalis) used for heart problems and the opium poppy (Papa verum) for pain management. Most of these, by traditional medicine recognized substances, are strong poisons in higher doses. This is contrary to the popular belief that herbal medicines are mild and well tolerated.
Scientific medicine always tries to extract the purest form of the plant subtance, while in phyto therapy often mixtures are used, because the active substance of the plant extract has not been successfully identified.
As part of an alternative/holistic cancer therapy, plants like mistletoe are used for their therapeutic effect.