What is Herbal Medicine

Herbal Medicine is a system of healing that uses plants and plant extracts to treat illness. Herbs have been used this way for thousands of years and are still used in much of the world instead of pharmaceutical drugs. For instance, in France and Germany, herbs are extensively used in mainstream medicine. Western herbal medicine uses the same paradigm of the human body and illness as conventional western medicine. However, it is holistic, and therefore treats patients as complete human beings, with minds, emotions and spirit, as well as a body. It acknowledges that all are interconnected and seeks to treat any underlying cause, as well as the presenting condition. We spend time with our patients in order to understand their condition; hence the initial consultation will be at least one hour.

Plants have been on the earth much longer than humans, and all that time, they have been engaged in an arms race with bacterial, viral and fungal infections. They have also had to cope with toxic substances, such a metals in the soil or salt near the sea, and solar radiation etc. They have evolved a large number of substances that they make themselves to deal with these problems. Some of these substances work in humans as well as plants, and so are useful to treat disease and illness.

Medical Herbalists practice Western Herbal Medicine, which is based on the tradition handed down from the Greeks and Romans that evolved across Europe during recorded history. In the middle ages it was practiced by many traditional healers, although it was recorded by monks, many of whom practiced as herbalists in the abbey hospitals. All monasteries had a physic garden where the medicinal herbs were grown.

Today’s herbalists are not doctors, however they are trained at university in the medical sciences. Considerable modern research has been done into the actions of many herbs and the actions of many are now understood. Modern herbalists use a mixture of traditional and scientific knowledge to safely treat you with herbs. They are trained to take into account any medicines prescribed by your doctor and work with your GP or consultant to ensure the best possible outcome for you. Herbal medicine is a truly complementary medicine, not an alternative medicine.


Just to be clear, Western herbal medicine has no connection with homeopathy, which is a therapy system devised by Samuel Hahnemann about 200 years ago. Homeopathy is based on the twin principles that like is used to treat like, and the belief that the more dilute a remedy is, the stronger its action. It therefore uses remedies that have been diluted many trillion fold.

Ayurveda and Chinese Herbalism

Western herbal medicine also differs from Ayurveda and Chinese Herbalism. These systems of medicine are based on the concept that illness is caused by blockages and disturbances in energy flows around the body along paths called charkas and meridians.

How Do Herbs Differ From Drugs?

Many pharmaceutical drugs are based on plants from which the active ingredient has been isolated and synthesised. However, herbalists still use the natural plants which contain many different ingredients and may act together in a much gentler way within the body and so be much less likely to produce side effects. Herbal medicines are produced in low-tech ways, with a minimum of processing.

How Are Herbal Medicines Taken?

Herbal medicines can be supplied in several different forms to suit your needs. Some people like to brew and drink herbal teas, while others prefer the convenience of a tincture or powder. Your herbalist will discuss with you the best form for your prescription, to ensure maximum benefit and to fit in with your preference.

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