What is Herbal Medicine?

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

It may seem obvious but there are a lot of misconceptions about what herbal medicine actually is and what it is capable of. 

First things first, I will start with what herbal medicine is not and that is homeopathy. Just putting that out there as it’s often one of the first questions I’m asked. Homeopathy is another awesome discipline of natural medicine which is commonly confused with the herbal kind.

Simply put, herbal medicine is the practice of using plants to heal the physical, mental and emotional body. 

Seeing a herbalist is a lot like seeing your GP, except instead of spending 10 minutes discussing your symptoms, you’ll spend at least an hour with a herbalist going through your entire medical history. There are no stones left unturned when it comes to determining the route of your illness. 

Much like a visit to your GP, at the end of your herbal consultation you will have a prescription and treatment protocol written up, however, instead of pharmaceuticals your prescription will  be made up of natural plant materials and be coupled with dietary and lifestyle advice.

One of the main benefits of taking herbal medicines instead of pharmaceuticals is that they are very safe, gentle and easily recognised and absorbed by the body. Best of all they come with very few side effects. 

Natural medicine focuses on the patient and not the disease, here's an example:

Two patients come into the clinic presenting with eczema. The first has had it on an off for as long as they can remember, suffering from dry and sensitive skin since they were a child. The second patient has never had it before and has developed it only very recently after a particularly stressful period at work.

The reason each of these individuals has eczema is different and therefore their treatment should be different. A steroid cream might clear it up in the short term but ultimately if the cause isn’t addressed then the symptoms will continue to return every time the causative factor is triggered.

Herbal medicine offers an individual, holistic approach to health and healing. It is tailored to the individual and not to the disease. 

A lot of people think that herbal medicine means drinking your body weight in herbal tea.

While teas can be a great addition they are a really small part of what a herbal treatment might involve.

Think syrups, tinctures (pictured above), salves, powders, tonics, lotions, oils, steams, mouthwash, herbal baths - the list goes on. Getting excited? Me too! 

At its core, herbal medicine uses the laws of nature to help bring your body back into balance. The subtle energies of plants can teach us how to listen and learn from our bodies so that ultimately we can heal ourselves. More on this to come!

Have you ever tried herbal medicine? Have you ever wanted to? Are there any health concerns you’d love for me to address from a herbal or naturopathic perspective? Let me know!