Medical Herbalism is defined as the application of plants to support health and healing. Herbal medicines have been used for thousands of years throughout the world, with people using the plants native to their environment to alleviate illnesses. Today, research scientists are beginning to find evidence that many of these traditional uses can be effective.
Various parts of herbs can be used to have differing effects e.g. roots, leaves and flowers. The constituents of the herb can be extracted through several techniques, and as a result there are many different preparations. For example: infusions, where herbs are soaked in boiling water; decoctions, where roots and tougher plant materials are boiled for a longer time period; lotions, smooth cream-type preparations; tinctures, often alcohol based preparations, although there are non-alcohol alternatives and baths and skin washes.
Rachel Barrow uses a Traditional Western Herbal approach. This is a form of healing that is derived from studies of European and Native American herbal medicines. She uses a holistic approach, taking into consideration the person as a whole, rather than just focusing on one sign or symptom.
What are the potential benefits of using herbal medicines over conventional medicines?
- The World Health Organisation believe that because of their affordability, effectiveness and relative safety, herbal medicines should be conserved and encouraged.
- Conventional medicines (prescribed by a doctor) are often only aimed at relieving the symptoms of a client’s illness rather than looking at the overall problem or root cause. A herbalist’s holistic approach addresses the person as a whole.
- Herbs tend to be more gentle in their therapeutic actions and are generally non-toxic and non-addictive, even when taken for prolonged periods of time. Herbal medicines contain more than just a single active constituent, often components that reduce the side effects that are associated with the purified and singled out active ingredient in the conventional equivalent. For an example, click here to view the blog post on dandelions as diuretics.
- Herbs have been used by humans for thousands of years. We have developed a digestive system that successfully digests and extracts useful nutritional and medicinal constituents from plants, and any potential adverse reactions are generally known. Pharmaceutical drugs that have recently entered the market may have potential longer-term negative implications for human health that have not yet been identified.
Please note that herbal medicines should still be treated with caution, especially with children, the elderly and pregnant women. Do NOT discontinue any conventional medication that you are currently taking without consulting your GP or medical practitioner.