Herbal Medicine is the oldest form of medicine and has been used for thousands of years to treat illness and restore good health. Every early civilisation used plants as their main source of medicine, and most of the world’s population still rely on them today. Around a quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs currently prescribed by doctors were originally derived from plants.
Despite this it is sometimes misunderstood, either by being confused with entirely different therapies such as Homeopathy or tagged with the label of 'alternative'.
Herbalists strive to combine the best of good 'old fashioned' medicine - comprehensive in-depth consultation and physical examination, with a more holistic understanding of the patterns and root causes of disease. However a professional Medical Herbalist also relies on modern scientific knowledge and research to create individual prescriptions.
This style of modern herbal medicine is also known as Phytotherapy. It applies scientific research and the highest professional standards to the practice of herbal medicine. It takes its name from the word used in other parts of Europe, where plants continue to be provided by doctors and pharmacists as ‘phytomedicines’. Phytotherapists use herbs from around the world, but particularly the British, European and North American herbal traditions. They choose the most effective herbs from the best quality sources.
Phytotherapy encourages and adapts to a recent worldwide growth in scientific information on plant drugs and their effective and safe use. The methods used to evaluate herbal medicines are similar to those used by orthodox medicine. Yet, a herb contains many active ingredients unlike the single chemical in a drug, and may have several actions to support the body’s health.
How does herbal medicine work?
Plant medicines are selected mainly to stimulate or strengthen the body’s normal functions, and so help the body heal itself. Unlike orthodox drugs that have a single ingredient, plant medicines contain many ingredients and may have several simultaneous therapeutic actions in the body.
The phytotherapist approaches each patient as a unique individual in making a diagnosis and assessing his or her needs. Any herbal medicine prescribed may be a combination of plants chosen for the therapeutic actions required to treat that individual.
What happened during a consultation?
During the first consultation, the practitioner assesses the person as a whole. A detailed medical history will be taken, including emotional state, lifestyle, diet and any other underlying causes, rather than focusing only on the symptoms or disease. If appropriate, you may be advised also to see a doctor or other qualified practitioner.
Simple investigations such as blood pressure readings or physical examination may be done. Further tests may be advised via your GP or independent laboratory.
The findings will help make a diagnosis from which an individual management plan and course of treatment might be proposed. The practitioner will discuss this with you, along with any dietary and lifestyle changes.
In what form do I take the herbal medicine?
At the end of the consultation, a herbal prescription may be prepared in the attached dispensary. The medicine can be in the form of a tincture, tea, capsule, powder or tablet, and a lotion or cream for topical use.
Can herbs be taken alongside my doctors prescription?
Practitioners are trained to work with doctors’ prescriptions, so your herbal medicines will be chosen to avoid interaction with any current medication. Follow-up appointments at regular intervals will be made to monitor your progress and adjust either your management plan or herbal prescription.
For more information on herbal medicine, see also the website of The National Institute of Medical Herbalists
Setting the standard in Herbal Medicine since 1864