Western herbal medicine

Western herbal medicine, the treatment of disease by means of plant remedies, is also known by its European name of phytotherapy. It is the oldest form of medicine.

The qualified herbalist draws on a wealth of accumulated knowledge from past centuries and modern scientific research (which confirms many of these older methods).

Medical herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic skills as orthodox doctors, but follow a more holistic approach to illness. Herbalists believe that treating or suppressing symptoms will not rid the body of the actual disease. The underlying cause of the problem is sought and, when identified, it is this that is treated rather than the symptoms alone. Herbal remedies are used to restore balance in the body, enabling it to mobilise its own healing process. Herbalists treat almost any condition that patients might take to a doctor.

Herbal medicine works by utilising plant remedies with particular affinities for certain organs or body systems. These feed and restore those parts which have become weakened. As the body is strengthened, so is its power and ability to fight off disease. When balance is restored, health is regained.

A first consultation generally takes at least one hour. A case history is taken, and details of any current or previous medication carefully noted. Patients are not discouraged from continuing with their conventional medication. Herbalists are trained in drug-herb interactions and will select appropriate herbs for use alongside any conventional medicine already in place.

A second appointment lasting 30 minutes may follow in a couple of weeks, subsequent ones monthly - depending on the individual herbalist, the patient and the illness.

Herbal prescriptions are unique to each patient's requirements and may consist of tinctures, infusions, juices, powders, tablets, creams or oils. Only whole plant products are used rather than isolated extracts - herbalists believe the combined actions of all the plant's constituents have more enduring effects and are safer. Diet and lifestyle advice is also given.

Qualified herbalists know when a condition is best seen by a doctor or other professional, and in such instances the patient will be referred appropriately.

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