All the Naturopaths at the Natural Health Clinic use Herbal Medicine in their practise. It is the oldest form of medicine on our planet, comprised solely of plants and is still used as the primary form of medicine by over 75% of the world's population. In fact it is the traditional medicine of all cultures, and is based on observation and experience passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. The World Health Organisation encourages herbal medicine because it is inexpensive whilst being effective.
Is Herbal Medicine Safe?
Nowadays, there is also an enormous body of scientific information and research in the field of herbal medicine. This information assists herbalists to apply their traditional remedies with even greater safety and efficacy. Herbal medicine is the forerunner of modern drug medicine. Many chemical drugs are based on compounds found in plants. For example, the idea for aspirin came from the salicylates found in Willow bark, and heart drugs are still extracted from the Foxglove, more than 200 years after their discovery. There are many other examples. The Madagascar Periwinkle provides drugs for the treatment of leukaemia, and taxol from the Pacific Yew offers one of the most promising breakthroughs in cancer chemotherapy for decades.
Used properly, herbal medicine is safe and effective for healing disease and maintaining good health. Herbal medicine fills a gap in conventional medical treatment because sometimes it is only the subtle complex of chemicals found in plants which can meet the needs of patients and help to restore them to health.
How is it Different?
Herbal Medicine differs from western medicine due to the form in which the medicines are used - herbalists prefer the crude plant form of a medicine instead of pure chemicals refined from plants.
In modern medical science, pharmacologists examine the traditional medicinal used of plants and then locate what they believe to be the active chemical. They then make the drug by isolating that active principle. Herbal medicine acknowledges the existence of this active principle, but insists that the other less active components of the plant are essential in presenting the medicine in a form which is easily absorbed, utilised and excreted by the human body.
Herbalists believe that the biological complexity of humans is ideally matched by treatment with remedies of biological complexity - plants! In other words, herbalists believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Another major difference is that herbalists work on the premise that we have an innate ability to heal ourselves, and that medicines should be used to restore and support the body's own very capable defensive and restorative mechanisms, rather than try to replace these mechanisms. Herbal medicine is used within a holistic philosophical framework, treating the whole person rather than just a disease or one part of the body. Herbal medicine empowers people to play an active role in their own healing.
What Can I Expect?
According to the practitioner's assessment of the patient, a prescription will be formulated. Usually containing 4 to 6 herbs, this prescription is usually given in liquid form because liquids are easily combined in a formulation. Also liquids represent the least amount of processing needed to turn dried plant material into an acceptable pharmaceutical form. If the patient experiences difficulties with the taste of liquids, they can be taken in juice, and if this fails, tablets or capsules can be prescribed. The individual prescription is reviewed and adjusted at follow-up consultations.
What Can Herbal Medicine Treat?
Herbal medicine can successfully treat many common health problems. However, it is particularly suited to the treatment of chronic disorders such as arthritis, asthma, skin disorders and digestive problems.
Herbal medicine is also highly effective for the treatment of female menstrual problems such as period pain, excessive or disordered menstruation, pre-menstrual syndrome and menopause.
One of the greatest strengths of herbal medicine is the way it can improve the functioning of the immune system. Good immune function in vital, given the demands of modern living.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
Treatment of chronic problems is sometimes slow, taking many months, but a permanent change and relative freedom from side effects are more than adequate compensation. Generally some improvement will be experienced within 4 to 6 weeks, although this varies widely and also depends on how much effort the patient is prepared to make on their own behalf.
For more acute problems such as colds and flu, response to treatment can be very quick, with benefits coming in a day or two.