What is Western herbal medicine?

Herabal Drink

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries to treat a wide-range of medical conditions. Today there are three main branches of herbal medicine:

  • Western herbal medicine which originated in ancient Greece with doctors such as Hippocrates
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Ayurvedic medicine from India

Western herbal medicine looks at the whole person rather than just the symptoms, believing it is more effective to target the root cause of the illness, rather than to just treat symptomatically.

Plants contain hundreds of chemical compounds which have a therapeutic effect on the body. You may know that up to 25% of the medicines that doctors prescribe are based on these active ingredients. One example is Aspirin, which was developed from the bark of a willow tree.

Drug companies can identify a single active ingredient in a plant and from this produce well known medicines. However, herbalists believe all the active compounds in a plant work together to exert a physiological effect on the body. Whole plants, parts of a plant or combinations of different plants are chosen based on the ingredients they contain, and are used to help the body during acute and chronic illness. Read More

What does herbal medicine look like?

Herbalists usually extract the active ingredients from plants using water, alcohol or oil. The choice of preparation is based on the active ingredients of the plant, as some chemical compounds are more soluble in one preparation than another. Your medicine may take the form of:

  • a tea or infusion
  • a tincture (alcohol-based preparation)
  • a cream or lotion
  • an infused oil
  • a capsule or tablet (containing dried plant)

Is herbal medicine safe?

Plants contain active chemical compounds which have a physiological effect on the body. As with any medicine it is important that you see a qualified medical herbalist who is trained to understand these effects and the appropriate dosage for an individual. I have training in pharmacology so am fully aware of any interaction between the herbs I will prescribe and any other medication you might be taking. I source my herbs from professional, licensed manufacturers and as such can trace the origin of any herbs I prescribe.

How are medical herbalists regulated?

Currently there is no law that says a medical herbalist has to be registered with a professional body, however most reputable practitioners are. NIMH (National Institute for Medical Herbalists) ensures its members are educated to degree level, receive botanical and medical training, undertake continuing professional development, have full insurance and abide by a code of conduct and ethics. Close