Western Herbal medicine is the use of plant-based substances to promote good health and treat illness, combining traditional knowledge with insights from clinical and laboratory research into the active constituents of the herbs.
Herbal medicine is used to improve the function of key bodily systems to restore a balanced state of health. These include the digestive system, the immune system, endocrine (hormonal) organs and the organs of elimination.
Herbal medicines also act in a similar way to using plants as food – they nourish and sustain the body as well as treating illness. In some cases, herbs have similar (although milder) actions to orthodox drugs. For instance, there are ‘anti-inflammatory’ or ‘antibiotic’ herbs.
Treatment is tailored to the individual, by assessing aspects of diet, lifestyle and behaviour which may contribute to the illness and, where necessary, a herbal prescription.
Herb interactions with orthodox medicines
Herbal medicine is very safe when prescribed by a competent practitioner with good medical and herbal knowledge, using medicines from a reputable source. Some herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, can affect orthodox medicines. For example, St. John’s Wort may reduce the effectiveness of Warfarin, increasing the risk of blood clots and could influence the effectiveness of other anticlotting drugs.
Your practitioner will be aware of these problems and ask you for information about all the medicines you are taking and careful prescribing will avoid these situations occurring.
What conditions can herbal medicine treat?
Herbal medicines may be employed in a wide range of both short-term and long-term conditions, alone or alongside orthodox medicine and other therapies. Conditions particularly suitable for treatment by herbal medicine are:
- Anxiety & mild depression
- Digestive disorders
- Headaches & Migraines
- Hormonal conditions
- Joint problems
- Recurrent infections
- Skin conditions
- Urinary disorders
- Women’s health problems