Herbal Medicine

What is a Herbalist?

Medical Herbalists make use of plants whose traditional uses are backed up by modern scientific research. A qualified herbalist has a recognized qualification in herbal medicine and has achieved the required number of hours of clinical practice. Herbalists take a holistic approach to illness, treating the underlying cause of disease rather than just the symptoms. They are able to prescribe herbal remedies to be used alongside other medication and treatments, and many patients are referred to a herbalist by their GP for treatment.

Herbal Medicine is suitable for people of any age, including children, who respond especially well to the gentle actions of herbs. Each patient is treated as an individual – a Medical Herbalist recognizes that no two patients are the same.

What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal medicines are plant-based medicines made from differing combinations of plant parts e.g. leaves, flowers or roots. Each part can have different medicinal uses and the many types of chemical constituents require different extraction methods. Both fresh and dried plant matter is used, depending on the herb. 

Modern herbalists are aware of the importance of medicines being sourced from reputable manufacturers, who maintain consistent quality standards. Traceability (right back to the original batch of herbs) and certificates of authenticity are key ways in which quality is maintained. Sustainability is also of crucial importance. 

Water-based preparations

  • Infusions: dried or fresh herbs, usually aerial parts, steeped in boiling water
  • Decoction: usually harder plant material, boiled on the stove for longer than infusions
  • Syrups: herbs incorporated into a thick, sweet liquid
  • Poultices: moistened herbs kept in place by a cloth for localized healing
  • Lotions: infusions or decoctions delivered in a smooth liquid preparation
  • Compresses: generally, a soft cloth wrung out of a hot or cold infusion or decoction and applied to the affected area

Alcohol-extracted preparations usually called fluid extracts. As Sivanna we predominantly use non-alcoholic based extracts. Though the original starting material may have been extracted using alcohol this has been removed in the final preparation.

Oil-based preparations such as infused oils and ointments are used externally.

Other preparations commonly used:

  • Powders taken internally and applied externally, may come in the loose form or in capsules
  • Juices are very nutritive
  • Creams are often preferred in the treatment of skin conditions
  • Steam inhalations
  • Baths and skin washes
  • Gargles and mouthwashes
  • Pessaries and suppositories

What does a Herbalist treat?

Medical herbalism is for everyone – Since the beginning of humanity, herbs have been the first line of treatment for all common complaints involving:

  • Bones and joints
  • Circulation
  • Skin
  • Nutrition and nourishment
  • Fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth
  • Hormone health
  • Emotional health
  • Fatigue, energy, and stamina
  • Digestion
  • Allergies and the immune system.

What happens during a consultation?

During your first consultation with a naturopathic herbalist, the herbalist will build up a picture of you and your health by:

  • Taking your full case history
  • Asking about your family’s medical history
  • Discussing your diet and lifestyle
  • Finding out about any medication or supplements you use

This allows your herbalist to assess the underlying causes of your illness and formulate a mixture of herbs tailored to your individual needs. It may also be necessary to take your blood pressure or arrange for other tests to be done.

Your individual treatment plan will include herbal remedies and, where appropriate, dietary changes or nutritional supplements. Most herbal medicines are given in the form of liquids that can be taken in 5ml doses of two or three times daily. You may also be prescribed a herbal tea, tablets, ointment, cream or lotion.

After the initial consultation, three or four shorter consultations are usually necessary to assess your progress, followed by check-ups every three to six months, depending on the nature of your condition. Because herbal medicines work in a gentle and subtle way, they can take longer to work than orthodox drugs, but their effects are long-lasting and there should be no side effects.