“Drugs are a poor substitute for plants. They may be helpful for short-term or acute conditions, but their long-term action often depletes the primary life-force because of their inorganic nature. I believe that the reliance on chemical medicine contributes to a culture that is destroying our innate love of nature. Herbal medicine, therefore, relates to larger spiritual and political issues. If we do not reestablish our connection with the universe and natural healing, we may not be likely to survive as a species. We must replace our present medicines of death with those of life. Our concern as herbalists is not merely technical or medical, but planetary and humanistic.” – Michael Tierra from “Planetary Herbology”
What is Phytotherapy?
Phytotherapy is “modern herbal medicine” at its best. It applies scientific research and the highest professional standards to the practice of herbal. It includes the use of plants and botanical extracts to promote wellness and treat illness. Medical Herbalists are highly trained practitioners that combine the use of botanical medicine, science, and nutrition to restore health. Plant medicines have been used for centuries and modern research increasingly supports their efficacy and safety. Herbal preparations include teas, tinctures, ointments, and capsules, which are customized for individual use.
What is a Phytotherapist or Medical Herbalist?
Phytotherapist (‘phyto’ means ‘plant’ in Greek) or Medical Herbalists are practitioners with specialty university training. They combine orthodox medical knowledge and skills with scientific understanding of plant medicines. Phytotherapist or Medical Herbalist are not doctors, nor do they diagnose; they are, however, trained in the same diagnostics skills as orthodox doctors and take a more holistic approach to illness. They have a solid background in conventional medicine (anatomy, physiology, pathology, clinical assessment, pharmacology, biochemistry, botany, materia medica, and philosophy of Herbal Medicine, therapeutics and nutrition). Medical Herbalist can work in collaboration with patients also undertaking treatment from their doctor or surgeon. They choose the most effective herbs from around the world. When treating the client, a medical herbalist seeks out the underlying cause of the health problem and, once identified, it is this, which is treated rather than the symptoms alone. A medical herbalist can also provide accurate information on any possible contraindications and/or potential drug-herb interactions.
What happens at the consultation?
During the initial consultation, the practitioner assesses the person as whole and may last anywhere from 1 – 2 hours in length. A detailed medical history will be taken, including emotional state, past medical history, current lifestyle, medications, diet, and goals for treatment. Simple investigations such as blood pressure readings or physical examination may be performed. Care is taken to fully investigate your unique situation and provide an appropriate health care plan.
What types of conditions does herbal medicine assist?
Herbal remedies are selected mainly to stimulate or strengthen the body’s normal function. Unlike orthodox drugs that generally have a single ingredient; plant medicines contain many ingredients that synergistically work at restoring balance within the body. Herbal remedies are appropriate for most health care conditions, including simple, complex, chronic, and acute. Plants can provide support for those undergoing serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, varicose veins, toe fungus, dementia, cancer, diabetes, and more, as well as to provide relief from more common and acute issues such as indigestion, menstrual pain, insomnia, colds/flu, and much more. No matter what health challenges you may be facing, the plant kingdom has gifted us powerful medicine that loves to work with rebalancing the human body.
I’ve tried herbal medicine before and it didn’t work.
This is a common statement from those who have self-prescribed herbal medicine or taken only the advice from a retail herbalist or a book. Many health care conditions are complex and layered, requiring a professional, educated practitioner to help guide you through the process of developing an effective health care plan.. Also, unfortunately, many botanicals purchased at retail are not at a high enough quality or dosage to be effective. Taking a few drops of cheap Echinacea tincture when you are sick with the flu will not really help (though it won’t harm). Consulting with a professional herbalist ensures you are getting both appropriate advice, and effective medicine.
How long does it take for the herbs to work, and how long do I take them for?
This will vary for everyone and for different medical issues. For acute conditions, you should see results within the first few days. More complex, chronic conditions will require more time, sometime several months. Many people take herbs as preventative medicine on an ongoing, daily basis.
Should I tell my doctor I am seeing an herbalist?
I do encourage open communication between patients, doctors, and natural medicine practitioners, especially in complex cases, but this really depends on your relationship with your doctor. It is entirely up to you how much you are comfortable sharing with any health care provider, including me. I respect all clients with my complete confidentiality when consulting and providing health care.
Are there any side effects?
Not really! Usually, side effects include better sleep, less stress, improved digestion, more balanced emotions, and a sense of empowerment for taking your health care into your own hands with the guidance of a supportive professional. When used correctly, herbs are incredibly safe and negative side effects are not common. In fact, one common use for herbal medicines is to provide relief from the side effects of prescribed medications/pharmaceuticals.
How do I start?
“For many patients, their first visit to a medical herbalist can be a life changing experience and a chance to experience true health care. Your medical herbalist is a genuine, caring partner in health from the cradle to the third age. Many people come to appreciate the power of correctly prescribed, natural herbal medicines dispensed by a highly trained medical professional. Patients are often amazed at the opportunity and time given to discussing their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing in depth, and the sense of freedom and empowerment it gives them. Combined with the knowledge of an experienced healthcare partner, the results speak for themselves.” – The National Institute of Medical Herbalists
Common Ailments Addressed by Western Herbal Medicine
Autoimmune Conditions: Arthritis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, hypo/hyperthyroidism, lupus, cancer
Heart and Circulation: Anemia, poor circulation, heart disease, cold hands or feet, chest palpitations, varicose veins, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis
Digestive system: Constipation, diarrhea, IBS, hyperacidity, nausea and vomiting, indigestion, hemorrhoids, gastritis, ulcers, yeast overgrowth
Skin health: acne, burns, eczema, fungal infections, psoriasis, rashes, rosacea, scars
Respiratory system: Chronic sinusitis, rhinitis, allergies, hay fever, bronchitis, asthma, cough, colds & flu
Urinary system: urinary tract infections, incontinence, stones/gravel, yeast infections
Women’s health: Menstrual cycle irregularities, hormonal imbalance, menopausal symptoms, Pre-Menstrual Symptoms (PMS), dysmenorrhea (painful menses), endometriosis, fertility, PCOS
Men’s health: Male fertility, prostate health
General wellbeing: Weight management, anxiety, low energy, sleep, low energy