We Need to Talk about Herbal Medicine
Its Herbal Medicine Week (17th - 23rd June 2017) – so I thought I would talk to you about what herbal medicine is, what I do as a herbalist, and what the difference is between herbal medicine and homeopathy.
You wouldn't believe how many folk think homeopathy and herbal medicine are the same thing. Maybe you think they are, or maybe you aren't sure of the difference? That's cool - this blog is for you!
So, herbal medicine is the practice of using herbs to assist an individual in healing. And herbal medicine is old. As old as the hills. Its was first medicine that we as humans used and in fact some allopathic (conventional) medicines are made from isolated single plant constituents (chemicals) from herbs, aspirin being a good example - being isolated from white willow bark. Herbs however have hundreds, if not thousands of constituents in each plant - these work synergistically together and with your body.
Herbal medicine works on a pharmacological principle of their chemistry acting on the body, and then some! That ‘some’ is the energetic or ‘life force’ of the plants which interact with our own vitality. Sounds complicated and cool huh?! Well it is, and it’s part of the training of a medical herbalist to get really familiar with not only the action of each herb, but also their character, so we can select the right herbs for you when you come in to see us. (Homeopathy, which came into being in the late 18th century, differs in that it is based on the principle of like curing like. So in very basic terms, a preparation made from a bee sting would be used to help with conditions that appear similar to a bee sting. To make a homeopathic preparation the original material is diluted infinitesimally and succussed so that, on chemical analysis, none of the original material remains, but rather an energetic imprint of that material is present. Drops of this are then placed on whatever dosage form is being used, such as sugar pillules, and it is these that are taken. As you can see herbal medicine and homeopathy are very different!)
Check my appointments page to see what happens at a herbal medicine consultation!
Herbs are prepared as teas, tinctures (which are preparations of a herb steeped in alcohol), creams, or oils. Tinctures are the most common dosage form that herbalists prescribe in the UK and these are, in general, tinctures of several herbs made into an individual mix just for you. If you are unable to take alcohol let your herbalist know - there are good alternatives available!
So what do I do as a herbalist? Well, my work is varied. I see patients for one to one consultations in my clinic, I prescribe and dispense herbal medicines from my dispensary, making creams by hand where needed, and sending the medicines out to my patients. I also grow some herbs for my own use, and run herb walks and workshops, where I take groups of interested people out and show them herbs growing in the wild and talk about how they are used. I collaborate with my colleagues on some exciting projects - more details to come later this year! And I also really enjoying writing about my passions in herbal medicine. You may have seen me talk about a recent article I had published in Natural Health magazine - you can find more out about that here.
Lots of herbalists are running activities and events for herbal medicine this week - to find something near you check out this link.