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How Medical Herbalist can help you?

Herbal Medicine has its focus on the benefits of certain plants to human health. More about Herbal Medicine you can read in my previous post here. A medical herbalist is a person trained in medicine and plant sciences who utilizes plants to help a person restore health. The word health, derived from the old English word, is used here in its original meaning: ‘whole’ because herbalist’s approach is to do look at the whole person, and not just one organ or symptoms. Medical herbalist offers an opportunity to describe health issue(s), explore the function of the whole body, identify aggravating factors, and then apply multiple herbs to address multiple factors at once.


Herbalists use clinical and medical training to utilize medical plants based on:

  • understanding human physiology, anatomy, biochemistry

  • knowledge of differential diagnosis, diagnosis making and root causes of diseases

  • understanding the complex dynamic between different body/organ systems

  • understanding the historical use of herbal medicines

  • knowledge of pharmacology and understanding the constituents of medicinal herbs

  • addressing the human dynamic systems in an individualized prescription or series of prescriptions

  • knowledge of plant safety, efficacy, and possible herb-drug interactions

  • the ability to assess and monitor treatment in a quantitative and qualitative way

  • understanding of how to advise a patient on when to stop a herbal medicine or continue it.


APPROACHES TO TREATMENT


Most medicinal plants used by herbalists are extremely well tolerated and do not present problems for patients also taking conventional medicines. In fact, some herbs have been shown to improve the efficacy of conventional drugs e.g., barberry, rosemary and turmeric reduce bacterial resistance to antibiotics. A range of medical plants are also considered to be safe for use in pregnancy and for young children. This is extremely valuable in circumstances when using conventional medication would be unsafe.

A core aim of the medical herbalist is to increase resilience and fortify their patient’s body to heal itself. In chronic illness, it is common to apply herbal treatment to several body systems simultaneously to create beneficial effects elsewhere in the body. Therefore, treatment approaches include focusing at the:

  • Digestive function - a crucial in the practice of herbal medicine. Herbal medicines may act on various tissues in the restoration of disturbed digestive function by applying bitter, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary and relaxing herbs.

  • Removal of metabolic waste products from the body via the bowel, bladder, lungs and skin. The herbalist may seek to enhance one (or several) of these normal physiological elimination processes to relieve problems in other organs and tissues. Skin conditions such as eczema, and various menstrual and ovarian problems, may be helped by improving bowel and liver function. Improvement of kidney and bladder function may also form part of an arthritis treatment protocol.

  • Circulation. Poor circulation can have a detrimental effect on all body tissues, especially in the joints, the kidneys, and the brain. Increasing circulation to a diseased area is an important aspect of herbal medicine treatment, and herbs can be applied externally (e.g., in arthritis), or taken internally to dilate peripheral blood vessels.

  • The nervous system - playing a crucial role in the development of disease, and in the restoration of health. Using herbal medicines to aid relaxation, restore sleep patterns, reduce bowel spasm, and improve low mood is an important aspect of the treatment of a variety of conditions. In addition, there is a concept that some herbal relaxants additionally improve the function and resilience of the nervous system as a whole. Herbs with this capacity are called ‘nervines’.

  • Adaptogens are plants that restore resilience, increase adaptability and improve endurance. The Ginseng family contains several well-known adaptogens, but there are other herbal medicines with similar effects including, Glycyrrhiza, Withania, and Rhodiola.

  • Herbs affinity for specific organs or tissues. Examples include Marigold (Calendula officinalis) flowers for their capacity to increase the integrity of vulval and breast tissue, or Mullein leaves (Verbascum thapsus) with repairing effects on the lungs.


CONSULTING MEDICAL HERBALIST


The consultation is an opportunity to look at whole person not just symptoms alone. There may be links between other minor health problems that have prevented from getting better. A consultation may the first-time person has been truly listened to. The aim of the consultation is to understand how person became unwell and how to return to health by developing a treatment plan. The consultation is an opportunity to integrate all factors in healthcare including any current medications, and what herbs would be safe to take alongside. It may be necessary, with patient’s permission, to take blood pressure or make a medical examination, or refer to the doctor if there seems to be a need for necessary diagnostic tests.

Herbal prescriptions will almost never be the same for any two people with the same illness, since the root of their problems may differ. It is also necessary to give the right balance of medicines on an individual basis. Treatment and advice are based more on the personal history and circumstances than any named condition. Thus, it is the person who is treated, and not the illness. This individual approach is the secret of the herbalist`s ability to be successful in so many cases, especially where there has been no help from other types of treatments.


RECOGNISING LIMITATIONS


Sometimes damage has occurred to a person’s body that cannot be easily repaired, and in these circumstances once again herbal medicine can assist with. Herbalists do not have access to modern pharmaceutical drugs, nor to the painkilling drugs originally derived from plants e.g., opium. However, phytotherapist may help a person in pain in several indirect ways, for example by using plants which reduces muscle spasm, inflammation, or even anxiety to help improve patients’ experience of pain.


CONCLUSIONS


Herbal Medicine has its focus on the benefits of certain plants to human health. Medical herbalists utilise traditional and herbal medicine practices with scientific advances and current research. Using medical herbs, herbalists provide individualized approach to patient’s health to treat the root of health problems (not just symptoms) and promote wellbeing. Finally, it is important to mention the consultation itself as part of the therapeutic approach. Giving a person the opportunity to be heard, is an important part of herbal medicine.




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