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What is herbal medicine?

Often when people think of herbal medicine they think about taking a herb they bought in their local health food shop or on the internet. Most people will think of taking a specific herb for a particular problem - such as taking St John's Wort for depression or Black Cohosh during the menopause.

For a herbalist the term "herbal medicine" means the practice of herbal medicine as a whole system of holistic healthcare. When herbalists talk about Herbal Medicine, we are referring to the whole philosophy that guides our practice and the way we treat our patients - you. This system uses herbs and a variety of herbal preparations to support health. Treatment begins by taking a full medical history and finding out as much as possible about you.

I cannot treat a person if I do not know what is wrong with them, and how that affects their life. Herbalists want to know about the person who has the disease even more than the disease. No two people are the same and herbal treatment is truly individual.

Herbal Medicine is the oldest form of medicine known. Herbs have been used as medicine the world over since the first man became ill. Herbal medicine, in western countries, is usually classified as an alternative or complementary discipline nowadays, but it is still the most widely practised form of medicine in the world. Over 80% of the world’s population rely on herbs for health (World Health Organisation).

The best of both worlds - traditional knowledge and scientific research

For hundreds of years, herbalists have been helping people the world over to remain healthy or regain their health when they become unwell. The modern herbalist makes use of traditional knowledge accrued over centuries as well as modern scientific research.

With advances in science we are able to identify the chemical constituents within medicinal plants. We can understand the healing powers of herbs better - science is discovering why they work and confirming what our ancestors knew or discovered through trial and error or intuition. Herbal Medicine has evolved over thousands of years. At the same time our knowledge of health and disease has increased and goes on increasing every day. Our understanding of the plants has grown, but the plants are the same. We just know more about how herbs work.

Although herbal medicines have been used for a very long time, we face new challenges in the modern world. These include pollution, multiple drug resistance, drug side-effects, and long-term stress. There are health problems in modern society such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, we now know more about our bodies and how we can protect them from these problems. The combination of traditional knowledge accumulated over hundreds of years, along with modern scientific research has created modern herbalism.

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