Herbal Medicine

Herbs,  herbal supplements and vitamin pills on white background
Herbs, herbal supplements and vitamin pills

Herbal medicine is the use of medicinal plants to facilitate healing and been used to heal for thousands of years.  Every culture throughout the world has at some point used plants as part of their medicine.  In tribes it would be the healer or medicine man/woman that would hold this knowledge and it would be passed down from generation to generation.  Traditional medicines such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine has text thousands of years old outlining the use of herbs and a lot of these herbs are still used today.  The ancient Egyptians used this knowledge too with hieroglyphs showing physicians treating constipation with Senna pods and using caraway and peppermint to relieve digestive upsets, as well as Linseed oil being used to embalm in the mummification process.

Western Herbal Medicine is very eclectic these days with medicinal herbs from all over the world being used. Tumeric is a great example of an Ayurvedic herb that is now accepted worldwide for its healing powers.

Herbal medicines are parts of plants or plant products that help the body symptomatically as well as helping to heal the underlying cause. Most plants contain a range of substances that work synergistically, thus making the whole remedy complete and effective.  Example – Meadowsweet (from which aspirin was developed) provides pain relief but also protects the mucous membranes of the digestive system.  Herbal remedies do not tend to have the aggressive action nor the side effects of some modern drugs but that does not mean they are all safe, there are still contraindications to be considered and some herbs can be toxic in large quantities.  There is a wealth of information available on the internet about the uses of herbal preparations; however, the safest option is to seek the professional advice of a practitioner so that the ideal herbs can be prescribed to suit the client and contraindications are taken into consideration.

An initial consultation usually takes about an hour and a half, and similar to other complementary modalities, a detailed medical, diet, social and environmental history is obtained from the client.  The patients presenting complaint or symptoms are important as they are the first problems to be addressed along with the underlying cause of the problems.  As with all holistic health care the person is treated rather than the disease.

Herbal preparations come in many forms including raw herbs, teas, tinctures, extracts, capsules, tablets, lozenges, washes, liniments and ointments.  Complaints commonly treated with Herbal Medicine include:

  • Digestive – colitis, constipation, diarrhoea, gastritis, ulcer, IBS.
  • Emotional – anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress management.
  • General – chronic fatigue syndrome, weight loss, lethargy, chemotherapy support.
  • Gynaecological – heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, menopausal symptoms, pre-menstrual syndrome, amenorrhea, infertility, Pregnancy and post-natal support
  • Musculo-skeletal –rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, Fibromyalgia.
  • Neurological– headache, migraine, pain, shingles.
  • Respiratory – asthma, bronchitis, common cold, flu, hay fever.
  • Vascular – haemorrhoids, high blood pressure, varicose veins.