The Benefits of Herbal Medicine

September 13 to September 19 is National Herbal Medicine Week and the perfect time to discover the benefits of using herbal medicine instead of, or as a complement to, conventional medicine.

Herbal medicine is the oldest and still the most widely used system of medicine in the world today. It is medicine made exclusively from plants and is used in all societies and common to all cultures.  More than 80,000 types of plants are used around the world for medicinal purposes and over 75% of the world’s population relies on herbal remedies for regular treatment.

There are many different “types” of herbal medicine that spring from different cultures around the world and these have been documented for almost 4000 years. All these types have the use of medicinal plants in common, but they vary in the plants they use, the way they prepare and use medicines from these plants, and the philosophy of their treatment approaches. Different cultures may also use the same plants but differ in how it is used, or the part they use.

What is often misunderstood about modern pharmaceuticals is that they were often first isolated or discovered in plants. For example, the heart medication Digoxin, Aspirin and Pseudoephedrine were first discovered in the plants Digitalis, Willow Bark and Ephedra respectively.  However, Herbalists recognise the value of prescribing the whole herb because plants, being organic like the human body, have complex chemistry which protect the person from side effects and contribute, in a synergistic fashion, to the overall effect on the person.

People consult with Medical Herbalists for a range of reasons. Perhaps you can identify with one or more of them:

  • You have a chronic condition that cannot be treated, at best only managed, by conventional medicine;
  • You are tired of the side effects of modern drugs;
  • You have a set of symptoms that are undiagnosable by the mainstream medical system;
  • You simply and intuitively believe that natural medicine is more compatible with the human body.

If you consult with a Western Medical Herbalist, such as myself, you will more often than not be prescribed a compounded mixture of a few herbal extracts. These herbs in liquid form are the end result of a process of percolation to extract the active chemicals found in the plant. This compounding procedure ensures the use of more potent and effective herbal preparations whilst allowing the practitioner to prepare a medicine that is more personalised to the client’s specific needs.

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