in Poole, Dorset
The Healing Power of Plants
What is Western Herbal Medicine?
Western Herbalism takes an holistic approach to healing the body; focusing on identifying the underlying cause(s) of dis-ease and treating the whole person rather than just treating or suppressing the symptoms. Western Herbal Medicine has a long and extensive history of traditional uses, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. There is also now an expanding field of scientific evidence confirming the effectiveness of herbs in supporting wellness and restoring health, and the global demand for herbal remedies is increasing.
Herbal remedies are plant-based medicines made from the leaves, flowers, roots, stem and bark of particular plants. The different parts of a plant can offer different medicinal uses such as the aloe vera plant (whole leaf vs gel), and, depending on the particular herb, both fresh and dried plant matter can be used to prepare the medicine.
The most basic form of herbal medicine is one that you probably use most days in your food preparations. Culinary herbs such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon and chilli not only improve the taste of your meals, they also offer numerous beneficial health properties.
Herbs As Medicine - A Tradition Backed By Science
Plants have been the basis for medical treatments throughout most of human history. For centuries, cultures around the world have relied on traditional herbal medicine to meet all their healthcare needs. Every culture, from the Ancient Egyptians to the Indigenous tribes of North America, has a history of using plants to both treat and prevent illness. Many of the traditional uses of herbs are now validated by modern scientific research. Some of the most well-known herbal medicines include St John’s Wort to treat mild to moderate depression, Turmeric to treat arthritis, Valerian for insomnia and anxiety, Chamomile for a wide range of conditions, and Echinacea for immune support. For more information regarding the individual herbal medicines, please refer to my Herbal Monographs.
What Are The Main Benefits of Using Herbs?
Herbs offer several health benefits, both physically and mentally / emotionally. The main reasons I absolutely love using herbs and choose to incorporate them so often in my clinical practice are as follows:
~ They allow me to create an individualised formula for my clients that is completely unique and very specific for their particular conditions
~ They enable me to address more than one health issue in one liquid herbal. For example, digestion, stress and menstrual irregularity might all be treated in one herbal formula
~ Unlike conventional medicines, herbal remedies only work to heal and support the body, rather than suppress symptoms and potentially create health complaints elsewhere in the body.
How Does Herbal Medicine Work?
Plants manufacture chemicals within their leaves, roots, stems and flowers for the survival of the plant. They contain literally hundreds of active plant chemicals, which we refer to as "phytonutrients." When eaten by animals or humans, phytonutrients can contribute health-giving benefits to the body such as soothing and healing, as well as strengthening and rejuvenating properties. Herbal medicines are complex yet gentle medicines, which help rebalance and restore the body.
Many pharmaceutical drugs commonly prescribed today have been derived from some of these health-giving substances discovered in plants. For example, Metformin, a blood sugar-lowering drug used to treat diabetics is manufactured from the Western Herbal Medicine, Goat's Rue and Aspirin, used to treat pain and prevent blood clots, was derived from the White Willow tree.
I often use herbs at the beginning of an individual's health journey to help kickstart the healing process. This allows time and space to incorporate the longer-term dietary and lifestyle adjustments, which lead to ongoing health.
Health Conditions Commonly Treated With Herbs
Herbal medicines have numerous purposes, they can treat both acute health conditions including colds and flu, period pain, urinary tract infections, bruising and grazes, as well as support chronic conditions such as infertility, endometriosis, coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, insomnia, anxiety, acne, high blood pressure and many more.
People of all ages can consult a Western Medical Herbalist for almost anything concerned with their mental, physical or emotional health. You may want a wellness consultation, or help with fertility difficulties, acute cold or flu symptoms, allergies, sleep difficulties, or digestive problems.
Furthermore, there may be a long-standing problem such as an inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disease, or a need for support during treatment for cancer.
How Do You Take Herbal Medicine?
- Liquid Herbs: I use liquid herbal extracts extensively in clinical practice because not only are they very effective, containing a complex array of often potent nutrients, but they also allow for flexible prescribing. Each herbal formulation is tailored to your specific needs and dosing can be easily adjusted.
Liquid herbals are made from either fresh or dried herbs, usually extracted in ethanol, and they are generally taken in small doses, morning and night, with or without water.
- Tablets, Capsules and Teas: Herbal medicines can also be dispensed in tablet or capsule form, which I also use for those who prefer this method of dosing such as individuals who struggle a bit with the unusual taste of herbal medicine. Though I do find that most people soon adjust to the taste and even begin to really enjoy them!
I also prescribe some herbs in the form of herbal tea, such as chamomile and peppermint tea for soothing the digestive system, sage tea for hot flushes, and lemon balm and passion flower tea for relaxation and sleep.
- Topical Herbal Applications: As well as being taken internally, herbs can also be used very effectively as topical applications such as in balms and creams. Skin conditions, such as fungal infections, psoriasis and acne, are particularly well suited to herbs applied in this way.
Is Herbal Medicine Effective?
Yes absolutely! Herbs when used properly can be very effective in treating a wide range of health conditions. Used in the appropriate context, herbs can instigate healing on their own or they can be used alongside other forms of treatment such as nutritional supplements and conventional medications.
It is important to consult a qualified health practitioner before commencing any herbal treatment since some herbs can interact with pharmaceutical medications.
To ensure the efficacy of your herbal medicine:
1. Use a quality product
Due to the increasing popularity of herbal medicine and the relatively low levels of regulation over these products, there are unfortunately several unscrupulous manufacturers who use cheaper, less effective herbs in their products and so users of these products don't see the results they should.
I only use the highest grade, practitioner-only herbs in my liquid and tablet preparations, which you can purchase directly from me with an individualised prescription.
My herbal products are certified organic and biodynamic, sourced only from reputable licensed UK suppliers who adhere to current Good Manufacturing Practice for Pharmaceuticals (cGMP) as set out by the United Kingdom Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority. This means I am confident of the quality and efficacy of the products I prescribe.
2. Choose the right herb
Since herbs have hundreds of active constituents, it's really important to work with a practitioner who has extensive knowledge of how they work in order to ensure that appropriate herbs matching both your symptoms and physiology are chosen.
Both Rhodiola and Withania (or 'Ashwagandha') for example are adaptogenic herbs used to reduce the effects of stress. However whereas Rhodiola can be stimulating to the body and mind, Withania is more relaxing. The art of herbalism is often a case of matching the personality of the herb with the personality of the patient!
3. Take the right dose
All herbal medicines have their own therapeutic dosage range, some of which are very narrow, which means that it is essential for healthcare products to contain herbs at their relevant dosages. This is often not the case however, particularly with herbal products bought from high street stores and online retailers. Used outside of these particular dosage ranges, herbs are ineffective and can also be harmful if taken in excess.
Working with a well-qualified Herbalist or Naturopath means that your individual health condition will be properly assessed and the products you are prescribed will be both relevant for you and at the correct therapeutic dosages.
How Long Does Herbal Medicine Take to Work?
For acute conditions such as colds, flu and infections, herbal medicines can have a noticeable effect quite quickly, sometimes almost immediately. However for longer term, chronic conditions, herbs will need to be taken for a longer time period. As a general guide, I often use an approximate timeframe of 1 month for every year a person has had the health condition.
For older clients wanting to incorporate herbs in their daily lives as preventative medicines, herbal formulas can be taken at low dosages either on a long term basis or intermittently.
The Many Different Ways
You Can Use Herbs
alcohol (usually ethanol) or non-alcohol based preparations
dried or fresh herbs steeped in boiling water
boiled on a stove, for longer than an infusion
herbs incorporated into a thick, sweet liquid
moistened herbs kept in place by a cloth
⦁ Lotions, creams, balms & salves;
infusions or decoctions used in a smooth liquid preparation, particularly for skin and musculoskeletal conditions
a soft cloth wrung out of a cold or hot infusion or decoction
⦁ Oil-based preparations;
infused oils and ointments, for topical use
internally or externally, either added to water/juice, or made into tablets or capsules
in foods and juices
⦁ Steam inhalations;
particularly for respiratory conditions
⦁ Pessaries & suppositories;
particularly for urinogenital conditions
⦁ Bath & skin washes
⦁ Gargles and mouth washes
Herbal Medicine Products Available to Purchase Directly From Me:
Herbal medicines are tailored to your individual needs, based on the underlying cause(s) of your health condition.
In order to purchase one of my herbal medicines, we are required to undertake a short health consultation. This is usually done online via a video call however we can arrange an in-person consultation if you would prefer. During the consultation we will briefly discuss both your past and current health history, along with any medications and/or supplements you are currently taking. Since some herbal medicines can interfere with the activity and effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs, it is important that you let me know about these before I prescribe you with a herbal medicine.
For other herbal products, including creams, balms, salves and herbal teas, there is no requirement to undertake a health consultation. These products can be purchased directly from me at our online shop, or for individual bespoke remedies, please contact me directly or complete the online enquiry form.