Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine known. 80% of the world's population still rely on medicinal plants for their health. In western herbal medicine, thousands of years of empirical wisdom are integrated with contemporary scientific insight so that the use of plant remedies remains valuable and relevant in modern healthcare.
Many pharmaceutical products are based on plant medicines in the sense that they consist of a synthesised version of what is considered to be the active chemical in the plant. Herbal medicine tends to look to whole the whole plant to deliver the therapeutic effect. Value is placed on complexity, and dynamic interaction between all the different elements – known and unknown - of the plant. The sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Within the European tradition, herbal medicine has always been accessible to ordinary people. Historically, harvesting medicinal plants and preparing kitchen remedies, was as natural a part of day to day business as farming and cooking. In the same way that people are rediscovering the skills of growing their own food for health and environmental reasons, perhaps there is a parallel urgency to nourish and maintain our tradition of harvesting and growing our own medicine.
Herbal medicine practitioners
While herbal medicine offers the empowering opportunity for individuals to take responsibility for their own healthcare, there will always be times when it is more appropriate to seek expert help. Modern professional herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic skills as conventional doctors, but take a more holistic approach that acknowledges the uniqueness of the individual. They will tend to use remedies that consist of whole plant extracts, and make recommendations pertaining to diet and lifestyle, as well as prescribing herbs. To locate a skilled herbalist near you contact London Community Herbalists or the National Institute of medical herbalists.