Frequently Asked Questions
What is Herbal Medicine?
Why choose Herbal Medicine over other treatments?
Is Herbal Medicine Safe?
I am already on medication, is this a problem?
What if I don’t have a diagnosed condition?
Can I treat myself?
How much does it cost?
For thousands of years, humankind has used plants as a means of restoring health. A wide knowledge of herbs and their applications was accumulated throughout time. However, the knowledge that was once commonplace was somewhat lost as modern medicine developed. Herbalists are now working to re-establish this knowledge, and apply it to restore health and well-being in patients. Modern scientific evidence has now contributed to the efficacy of western herbal medicine. Herbal medicine treats the whole person by taking into consideration the patient’s personality, lifestyle, and diet in order to treat the root of the problem and not just the symptoms.
Herbal medicine can help for any number of complaints as it takes a holistic approach to health and well being. It can also be used to complement existing treatments and medications. The following are just some of the reasons why trying herbal medicine is recommended:
- To learn more about your illness, and which imbalances are involved
- To learn how you can help yourself, through diet, lifestyle, etc
- To treat yourself with something gentle that doesn’t harm your body further
- To have someone to talk to about your health, who takes time to listen, who cares, and who will help you make informed choices about your health
- To regain health, vitality and well-being
- To have someone who knows your health history to go to when you have a minor health problem in the future.
- To regain touch with your body
- To save spending money on over-the-counter supplements and herbs that may not be effective.
- To take control of your own health.
Yes, Herbal Medicine is safe, when taken under the supervision or by prescription by a medical herbalist. The safety record of herbs prescribed by a trained herbalist is excellent. However, some herbs can be dangerous if taken over-the-counter with no trained guidance. Herbs have a much more gentle way of acting on the body than pharmaceutical drugs. They generally support the body’s functions to help the problem rather than “forcing” the body to act in a particular way. Therefore, herbs tend to have very few side-effects.
A good example of how herbs may work compared to other medication:
Cough syrup: the most common remedy used for coughs. An herbal syrup would include expectorants to help eliminate the lungs from infected mucous, a soothing action, to help the mucous liquidify as well as other useful actions whereas normal cough syrups generally suppress the cough amongst other actions, leaving infected residues in the lungs, making recovery difficult. Note: suppressing a cough might be a very useful action at times, used by Herbalists as well, when appropriate.
The fact that you are taking orthodox medicine is not a problem in seeing an herbalist. There are some interactions between herbs and medication. However, the herbalist is trained in pharmacology and knows these interactions. As there is such a wide range of herbs, it is possible to treat the person and avoid such interactions. The herbalist will work alongside your GP to restore your health and if need be, will even refer you to your GP for further investigations or advice.
This is not necessarily relevant. Indeed, the Herbalist can still evaluate your symptoms to acquire a picture of which processes in your body may be under or over-functioning, and the possible reasons for these imbalances. The body’s imbalances have many ways of manifesting themselves, with symptoms, physical signs, odours, colours etc, which the herbalist is trained to assess. Physical examinations therefore may be carried out during a consultation.
Herbs have countless actions in the body and mind, and humans have refined these uses over many centuries, long before modern diagnosis was developed. However, having a precise diagnosis contributes to the evaluation of these imbalances, the understanding of symptoms and therefore can be very helpful also. The Herbalist may at times judge it necessary to refer you to your GP for further investigations if your condition does need diagnosing for further treatment.
A wide range of herbs and supplements are available over the counter. However, many factors in self-medicating render it a highly inefficient and possibly dangerous practice:
Quality – the quality of these highly processed herbs is far inferior to the traditionally-made, organic herbs that herbalists use.
Herb Uses – although the press often claims that a certain herb has a certain application (e.g. St John’s Wort is an anti-depressant), herbs have several uses each (St John’s Wort is also anti-viral, nervine, healing, etc) and for one condition, there are usually between 10-50 herbs that may be used.
Choice of Herb – Taking products over-the-counter is self-medicating, and therefore how would you chose the most appropriate herbs for your ill-being? The herbalist is highly trained to precisely prescribe herbs that are most suitable for your person and illness.
Self-Medicating – By self-medicating, you are in danger of taking a herb that may be dangerous for your condition or that may interact negatively with orthodox medication.
Dosage – The dosage labelled on these over-the-counter product is purely indicative. Therefore a fully-grown overweight man may end up taking the same dose as a frail underweight elderly woman. The herbalist will prescribe a dosage and form which is appropriate for your constitution, build, height, lifestyle and metabolism.