Herbal medicine offers a natural and safe way to regain your health and well-being.The practice of herbal medicine is both an art and a science and draws upon one of the oldest forms of natural treatment for diseases of both the mind and body.
Having an appointment with a medical herbalist is a chance to be listened to and heard and have your health problems addressed from an integrated and holistic perspective that takes into account all aspects of your health. Links will often me made between varying symptoms and explained in a way that empowers you to take back your health. You will often make new discoveries about your own health.
Unlike medical doctors, a medical herbalist will spend a considerable amount of time with you getting to know you and every aspect of your current and previous medical history. There is time to really understand your health issues and to look into diet and lifestyle also. This means that the treatment and herbal remedies prescribed are entirely tailored to you and aimed at improving every aspect of your health. In one herbal prescription a variety of herbal remedies can be added that help bring balance to many systems of the body as well as the mind. Herbal medicine is therefore a very powerful form of natural medicine at the same time as being very safe and gentle.
Unlike prescription drugs, herbal medicines work in harmony with your body, aiding the natural physiological processes – enhancing actions where needed and bringing balance back to the body. Pharmaceutical drugs are aimed at treating symptoms – often with many side effects – whereas herbal remedies are aimed at treating the person – not the disease. They are not only health enhancing but they are also free from the side effects associated with medical drugs.
- Herbal tea – this is a suspension of fresh or dried herbs in water. The water acts as a solvent and extracts the medicinal compounds from the plants into the water.
- Herbal liquid extract – Herbal medicines are macerated in either alcohol or another solvent – such as glycerine – which extracts the active medical properties from the plants. These are much more concentrated than herbal teas and so only a small amount (approximately 15ml) is taken daily.
- Herbal capsules/ tablets – powdered herbs or concentrated herbal extracts in capsule or tablet form. Some herbal tablets are standardised to ensure a specific concentration of the active herbal ingredient.
- Fresh whole herb – whole herbs are either taken as a juice or eaten as a food.
The most common external preparations are herbal creams, ointments and lotions, as well as diluted essential oils.
Can I take herbal medicines if I am already taking other supplements?
It is generally safe to take herbal medicines alongside other nutritional supplements. However there are some instances where caution is needed, which is why it is important to consult a trained and licensed medical herbalist.
Can I take herbal medicines if I am already taking medications prescribed by my doctor?
More caution is needed with the use of herbal medicines if you are taking other prescription medication. Pharmaceutical drugs work on specific biological pathways which can sometimes interact with the use of herbal medicines. This does not mean that it is unsafe to take herbal medicines alongside prescription drugs; they can both be used together safely when under the guidance of a trained medical herbalist, who will have a good knowledge of herb-drug interactions and which herbal remedies are safe and effective in conjunction with any medications you may be taking. In addition, herbal medicines can often be used to help treat the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.
Should I tell my GP that I am taking herbal medicines?
Yes. I advocate an integrated approach to the safe and effective use of herbal medicines and advise that healthcare provider responsible for your care should be informed about any supplements or herbal medicines you are taking. This can be difficult for patients to declare and In many instances your medical herbalist will liaise with your other healthcare providers to inform them of any herbal medicines you are taking and ensure a safe an integrated approach is taken to your overall healthcare.
Do herbal medicines have side-effects?
Herbal medicines are generally free from the side-effects associated with pharmaceutical medications. In a minority of cases some people can experience side effects. Should this happen your medical herbalist will be able to advise you and adjust your prescription accordingly.
Are herbal medicines safe?
When used under the care and guidance of a trained medical herbalist, herbal medicines provide a very safe and effective treatment.
Can children take herbal medicines?
Yes. Your medical herbalist will prescribe herbal medicines that are safe for children and will adjust the dose accordingly.
How long should I take herbal medicines for?
The length of treatment varies according to individual circumstances. As a general guideline 3-6 months is often enough to create a lasting change and treat the underlying cause.
Are herbal medicines expensive?
No. The average cost of a herbal prescription is between £7-10 per week.
Do I have to take herbal medicines with food?
This depends on the herbal medicine being taken and the condition. Herbal medicines are often taken alongside food to help with absorption.
Should I buy my own herbal medicines?
Whilst herbal medicines are widely available in health food shops and supermarkets, you should consult a medical herbalist before taking herbal medicines for specific conditions. They will not only be able to prescribe a more targeted treatment to help treat the underlying problem, but they will also be able to advise you on which herbal medicines are safe and effective for your specific condition whilst taking into account any other supplements or prescription medications you may be taking.