The use of herbal medicine is as old and as widespread as
humanity. The earliest written records of herbal medicine, found in
the Middle East, India and China, date back over 3,500 years.
Herbalists use plant-based medicines to encourage the body to
make its own corrective healing processes. They favour the use
of the whole herb as medicine, rather than its isolated active
ingredients, arguing that this provides a gentler, safer and more
natural form of treatment than pharmaceutical drugs do.
is viewed as a result of imbalance and the herbal remedies are given
to restore overall harmony within the body. Western herbalists
usually work from a dual understanding of both naturopathic
principles and orthodox medical diagnosis. They prescribe herbal
remedies by matching their therapeutic properties with the patient's
symptoms, as well as by seeking to strengthen the body's systems
that are under functioning.
In order to make the right choice of herbs for their patients'
condition, professional herbalists undertake comprehensive
assessment of the patient's medical history, lifestyle and physical
and psychological symptoms.
Herbs are classified medicinally according to their specific
actions. Examples are given below:
Antiseptic: aim to prevent or reduce infection, e.g.
echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), garlic (Allium sativum).
Antispasmodic: prescribed to ease muscle tension and spasm,
e.g. passion flower (PassiflorA incarnata), cramp bark (Viburnum
Nervine: aim to soothe and restore the nervous system, and
may be sedating (e.g. Lavander -Lavendula officinalis) or
stimulating (e.g. oats Avena sativa).
Tonic: can restore and nourish muscle and tissue tone and
build energy, e.g. damiana (Turnara diffusa), goldensal (Hydrastis