As a herbalist, I am often asked if I ‘have a herb for this or that complaint’. The answer can be frustrating for both the person and me, as a herbalist. In general, the answer will be ‘yes, but it depends’.
One of the difficulties we have with our health problems is that we often want a quick solution to whatever the problem is. Who doesn’t want relief from pain as quickly as possible! If a patient has a sore throat for instance, I can suggest something like thyme or red sage tea, both to drink and gargle with. The sore throat is likely to be short-lived and will probably get better in a few days, even if I don’t suggest something to relieve the pain and soreness (and fight whatever infection may be going on). There may be more that I would suggest but this is a simple explanation and a simple answer to the ‘do you have a herb for this’ question.
If the patient frequently gets sore throats, as well as working to relieve an immediate infection, I would want to investigate this further and find out why. Thyme or sage may help the immediate situation, but what is causing the general problem of recurrent sore throats? What is happening and what is out of kilter? That is the case, no matter what your health problem. My starting point is the patient, not the health problem.
During a full consultation I will spend at least an hour exploring a patient’s health issues in depth. I’m looking for clues in the medical history – what is happening for this patient at this time, and what has contributed to this over time. How can we work together to address these problems? What changes do I need to help this person make, and how can I convince them that changes might help, and how do I support them making these changes?
Listening to the patient’s story, hearing what they tell me, working together to improve their health, and using all my professional skills as well as those wonderful healing plants that grow everywhere in the world, are the treatment, and also the answer to the question.
Sometimes it takes time to improve your health, and sometimes it can be quite a long time. It usually takes time to become unwell so recovering better health will also take time. There are few things that please me more as a herbalist, than a patient saying “I feel so well in myself”.
So, you see, if you ask me, ‘is there a herb for this, my answer will be, “yes, but it depends. It depends because, first of all, I have to know you and your health before I can say which herb or herbs are most suited to you and your particular needs.”
Yes, there generally is ‘a herb for this’, but actually there is a herbalist and a patient for this. The entirety of the therapeutic relationship – patient, herbalist and medicinal healing plants is the answer to the question.
Find a herbalist near you at https://www.nimh.org.uk/find-a-herbalist/