Herbs are plants, many of which are considered “weeds”. The leaves, flowers, stems, bark and roots of these plants contain chemical constituents which have the ability to effect change, on a biochemical or cellular level, within our bodies.
The current science that supports the use of herbal medicine is growing large and strong. Our long history of the use of herbs as a medicine is being verified by current scientific thinking and research.
By consulting the historical literature, current research and her own experience and education, a herbalist or naturopath (naturopathy includes the study of herbal medicine) will select the appropriate herbs for an individual treatment. Very often this will come as a mixture of several different herbs, and they will be selected for their singular effects and for their synergy, or their ability to work well together. The skill of the herbalist is in the selection of the appropriate herbs for their maximum effect and safety.
Herbs may be prescribed in the form of teas, tablets, extracts, capsules or powders, or topically as ointments, creams or lotions. The skin can be seen as an absorbtive mechanism for gently allowing the components of herbs (the chemical constituents) to enter the system.
Herbalists develop great respect for the herbs in their dispensary; this is because they have found them to be effective and to work in ways which may sometimes be beyond the current scope of available evidence. I like to use extracts made up of the whole herb, because this pays homage to the thinking that herbs in their wholeness have effects beyond their individual components, or identified constituents.
Herbs are, nevertheless, medications and can have profound effects. It is incumbent upon all practitioners to ensure they have up to date and working knowledge of the possibility of side effects, interactions, and contraindications with pharmaceutical or prescription medications. Patients do need to inform their doctors when they are taking complementary medicines, and likewise your naturopath will need to know what prescription medications you may be taking.
It is not recommended that you stop any current prescription medication without consulting both your doctor and your complementary medicine practitioner.