What is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal Medicine is the use of plants as medicine. This includes food. Nutrition comes from your food. The medicine is based on the chemicals found naturally in plants. These medicinal plant compounds mirror the chemistry in our human body and act at a cellular level to improve health and combat disease. Many of the drugs that are available in modern medicine are derived from herbs and plants. The plant medicine works in the body by creating the changes needed in the cells to allow the body to recover at a deep level. Herbal medicine does not only work on symptoms.
What is Herbal Medicine used for?
Herbal Medicine is effective most conditions that you would take to your GP, for example:-
- digestive problems, like irritable bowel, allergies or indigestion
- skin conditions like eczema, acne or psoriasis and dermatitis
- circulation problems, like diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure
- sleep difficulties, like insomnia or constant waking up
- emotional problems, like depression, stress, eating disorders
- hormonal imbalances, like pre-menstrual syndrome, menopause, PCOS or pre-diabetes
- fertility issues affecting men and women
- musculo-skeletal aches and pains, arthritis, joint pains
- chronic pain control, long term conditions like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue
- chest infections, respiratory infections like hay fever, asthma
- weight control difficulties, diet problems, irritable bowel or indigestion
- anxiety, panic attacks, constant worry and stress
- immune system problems like coughs and colds, infections, fatigue and exhaustion
Herbal medicine is extremely effective with chronic (long lasting) conditions and also provides remedies for acute (sudden) conditions. It has good results with many causes of infertility. It has treatments for infections, inflammatory conditions, auto-immune conditions, skin complaints, depression, anxiety.
Herbal medicine is not an alternative to conventional medicine when it comes to the treatment of severe or life-threatening conditions although it can work alongside such treatment with the involvement of your GP and Consultant.
During your consultation we will consider all the possible underlying causes of your condition in order to establish the best treatment plan for you.
How does Herbal Medicine work and how is it dispensed?
Herbal Medicine cannot be prescribed without a consultation. This rule is imposed by Law because medical herbalists are trained to diagnose and this ensures that all of your health needs are checked and assessed.
Your prescription usually given in tincture form, meaning the active plant compounds have been extracted into alcohol. The amount of alcohol consumed in a tincture is minimal and can even be given, in appropriate doses, to children. If non-alcohol based herbal medicine is required, this is always available as a syrup or as a tea to be drunk.
Tinctures are usually provided as liquid in a bottle containing the medicine at a rate of 100mls per week. This can be prescribed weekly, or monthly. A follow up appointment is usually necessary at least two weeks after the first, to ensure that the medicine and treatment plan are working as they should. Repeat prescriptions can be given without a follow-up appointment for 3-5 months.
Generally, the medicine will be taken as 5mls in water, three times a day. This can vary. It is often the case that another specific medicine might be necessary. An example is where a sleep mix is needed, and this will given as a separate mix to be taken an hour before bed.
The use of plants for their medicinal effect is well known. There is much research to prove that plant medicine is effective. Modern medicine uses laboratory synthesise and stronger doses of the active plant’s chemical compounds typically identified as medicinal from their historic use as medicine throughout time. For example, common aspirin, derived from the active compound, Salicin, found in the Willow tree (Salix alba), is an anti-inflammatory, and has been used for centuries in folk medicine world wide as a medicine for the relief of aches, fevers, pain and rheumatic pains. It is now synthesised in a laboratory and used as aspirin for the same time-honoured purpose.
Like all drugs, taking herbs without a thorough knowledge of their action is potentially dangerous. Common Foxglove (Latin name Digitalis purpurea, a wild plant still common in England, has, as it’s active part Digoxin, a cardiac glycoside. however, it is dangerous and should never be self administered. This compound, now used in conventional medicine to treat certain heart conditions is commonly known as Digitalis, and it’s active compound is laboratory synthesised and used as life saving medicine.
The dangerous plants and herbs are well known to Medical Herbalists who trained with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), and their use is either prohibited or limited. This ensures the safe and effective use of herbal medicine.
The therapeutic benefit of Herbal Medicine is enhanced by the careful combination of herbs that form the prescription chosen to work synergistically together. For example, for problems with fertility, herbs for the hormonal system might be combined with herbs that calm the nervous system and reduce stress responses, warm and increase blood supply to the reproductive system, build up the strength of the immune system and improve liver function. Where IVF is to be used, herbal medicine can improve the chances of success.
The body is perfected by nature to maintain the balance it requires to transport us through life. A simplistic overview reminds us that the endocrine system controls our hormones, the nervous system governs our thoughts and actions, the cardiovascular system maintains our blood supply which transports essential nutrients around the body, the digestive system ensures we are nourished provided the diet is correct, the immune system fights disease processes, our musculo-skeletal system gets us up and around, and these systems constantly communicate with and respond to each other.
Plants are also food. Weight loss, allergies, fatigue, blood sugar levels and general health are all dependent upon the food that you eat. Your nutrition must be providing your body with everything you need, and nutritional advice will be given when necessary.
All first appointments include checking for pre diabetes or diabetes, urinary infections, high blood pressure and consider how your weight is affecting your health.
Combining herbal medicine with nutritional advice, hypnotherapy and/or mindfulness practice creates an organic, natural and holistic treatment.
Fran Stone BALaw, Dip Phyt, MNIMH, GHR, CNHC. Holistic Health Practitioner in Bedford and Cambridge. Medical Herbalist, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness Practitioner and Nutritional Advisor.