Herbal Medicine

Western Herbal Medicine


Herbal medicine is often viewed as a new ‘complementary’ or ‘alternative’ medicine and can be associated with the Chinese traditional system of medicine when in fact, it has been practiced in Ireland and by 80% of the world’s population for thousands of years. What has changed, however, is nowadays herbalists combine the knowledge and wisdom gained from the traditional use of herbs with modern scientific research and diagnostic methods to provide well-balanced, safe and effective treatment.

How does herbal medicine differ from pharmaceutical drugs?
Many of the pharmaceutical drugs used today are based on plants. Single constituents are extracted or synthesized in the laboratory and manufactured on a large scale. Examples of such drugs are aspirin (based on willow bark) and cardiac glycosides digoxin and digitoxin (heart medication based on the foxglove).
Herbal medicine, on the other hand focuses on using the ‘whole plant’, working on the principle that it is the sum of all the plant constituents that produce the positive therapeutic effect. The main action is facilitated and balanced by the supporting constituents helping to minimize side effects. For example many orthodox diuretics (drugs that increase the flow of urine, often used in the treatment of high blood pressure) can seriously reduce potassium levels in the body. The patient then has to take supplementary potassium in order to restore levels. Herbalists use Dandelion leaves, a powerful diuretic which contains potassium, thereby naturally replacing that which is lost. A positive therapeutic effect can be achieved while maintaining balance in the body and avoiding an unwanted side-effect.


Medical Herbalists ‘treating people not an illness’

Medical herbalists are trained in conventional western medical diagnostic techniques but also incorporate a more traditional and holistic approach to healthcare. This means identifying the cause of the problem and treating the person as an individual other than merely recognizing symptoms and just treating an illness. So unlike self-treating with over the counter herbal remedies, the medical herbalist can diagnose and treat using a multifaceted and approach, using a combination of herbs to address all aspects of the condition. The medical herbalist can treat all the family and can be of particular use when treating infants and children where conventional drugs may not be suitable. Medical herbalists are trained to identify any potential interactions between herbal and orthodox medicines and to know when a condition is best referred to a doctor or other therapist.