Herbal Medicine

Herbal Medicine is the oldest form of medicine known to man… and forms the cornerstone of all medicines, both traditional and orthodox. Our ancestors, by trial and error, found the most effective local plants to heal their illnesses and now, with the advancement of science enabling us to identify the chemical constituents within these plants, we can better understand their healing powers. Herbal medicine has never been more popular than it is today.

There is no doubt that in extreme situations the treatments devised by conventional medicine are unparalleled at relieving symptoms and saving lives.

Orthodox pharmaceutical medicines can sustain life and counter infections in life-threatening situations where other types of treatment may have little to offer. There is no question that modern surgical techniques and the whole range of diagnostic and life-support equipment now available can all be used to improve the chances of recovery from serious illness or injury.


The benefits of Herbal Medicine are well known and it is clear that medicinal plants have much to offer. Herbal medicine definitely has a place alongside conventional medicine in restoring health, treatment of chronic illness, and as preventative medicine. The human body is much better suited to treatment with herbal remedies than with isolated chemical medicines. Our digestive system and physiology as a whole are better adapted to digesting, recognizing and utilizing whole plant-based remedies as opposed to the synthetic chemicals of pharmaceutical drugs.

Clinical Herbal practitioners are trained in the same diagnostic skills as orthodox doctors, but take a more holistic approach to illness. Clinical Herbalists are able to combine a sound understanding of medical science and of the chemical composition of plants with time honored traditional experience and knowledge of herbal medicines. Herbal medicines act to nourish and sustain the various body systems and are used to restore weakened tissues and organs, encouraging the body to heal itself. As the body is strengthened, with the cells and tissues functioning in balance and homeostasis, the body is able to fight off disease and regain a higher level of health. Herbal medicine offers a safe, gentle and effective approach to health care and is suitable for all from the very young to the very old. Clinical Herbalists believe in an integrated approach to health care and that herbal medicine has a place alongside conventional medicine in restoring health and preventing illness. Qualified herbalists will not diagnose medical conditions and will suggest when a condition is best seen by a doctor or another therapist.

The concept of holistic medicine and treating the person as a whole instead of treating the condition is not new. Beginning with Hippocrates, teachers through the ages have guided every student doctor, herbalist, and nurse towards a deep caring support of the patient. Modern medicine however tends to focus on treating the disease and relieving the symptoms, whereas herbal medicine practitioners are trained to discover and resolve the root of the problem.

Holistic medicine defines health as a positive state of well-being, not simply the absence of disease and therefore focuses on the promotion of a higher level of health and the prevention of illness. Herbal practitioners emphasize the individual’s role in their own healing process, and much responsibility is passed back to the client. The holistic practitioner simply provides education and facilitates the process of allowing the body to heal itself.

Difference between herbs and pharmaceutical drugs

Many of the pharmaceutical drugs used today are based on plant constituents, and even now scientists turn to the plant world to seek out new “cures.” Plants are potent medications, but unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which contain isolated chemicals (often single active constituents originating from plants that are extracted and then synthesized in a laboratory) herbal medicine uses extracts from parts of the whole plant (e.g. leaves, stems, bark, root, berries, seeds, flowers, etc), containing hundreds of constituents in balance with each other. Herbalists believe that the active constituents are moderated within the plant and are made more (or less) powerful by the numerous other substances present, making them safer and resulting in fewer side effects. The medicinal action of the whole herb is ‘worth more than the sum of its parts’. This is due to the complex interactions and synergy of its abundant active chemical constituents to produce a therapeutic effect of the remedy as a whole.

For example, the herb Ephedra sinica is the source of the alkaloid ephedrine which is used, in orthodox medicine, to treat asthma and nasal congestion but it has the side effect of raising blood pressure. Within the whole plant however, there are six other alkaloids one of which prevents a rise in blood pressure. Another example is synthetic diuretics (drugs that increase the flow of urine) which seriously reduce the potassium level in the body; this has to be restored using potassium supplements. Herbalits use dandelion (Taraxacum officinale fol.) leaves which are a potent diuretic but contain potassium to replace naturally that which is lost. Even a more common example of this is seen when examining the caffeine content and effect of tea (Camellia sinensis) and coffee (Coffea Arabica). These two plants contain approximately the same levels of caffeine; however tea contains a much greater quantity of tannins (which gives tea its sour, astringent taste). These tannins reduce the amount of nutrients and drugs that are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream, thus less caffeine is absorbed. This is the fundamental reasoning behind why people often find tea less stimulating than coffee.