Herbalism involves the therapeutic use of plants as a means of restoring and maintaining health. This relies on accurate assessment of the application of the herbs, and it is this assessment that defines the term often used towards herbalism, of a holistic or wholistic therapy. It relies on seeing the individual person as a unique being, requiring a unique prescription based on the specific individual condition of health. Herbalists attempt to understand the underlying situation or ‘root cause’ behind the expression of various symptoms or ‘disease’. It is then the root cause that is treated, not the symptoms. Symptoms are usually the attempt of the body to rectify or rebalance the root cause, and are not the disease itself. Excessive suppression of symptoms can result in the body changing how it deals with the disease, and may result in new symptoms that may seem to be a new additional disease, but is in fact usually the same one. The situation however will often deteriorate as the initial attempts of rebalance have failed, and the new symptoms are often worse than the prior symptoms. The adage ‘treat the person not the disease’ is one that is frequently used in herbalism. Sometimes however it is necessary to reduce the discomfort being experienced by using herbs that give relief while other herbs are treating the underlying causes.
How herbs are used
Plants are complex mixtures of medicinal substances that act in symphony with each other to produce a specific effect that cannot be duplicated by extracting an ‘active’ component, as is often claimed. Therefore all the components of the plant part are extracted together and used as an integral medicinal product. Herbalists use various parts of the plant such as the roots, rhizomes, leaves, flowers, buds, bark, fruit or seeds, or indeed the whole plant in its entirety to create medicines that may include a single herb or a blend of a number of herbs. Various forms of medication are available, including teas or tissanes, pills, capsules, medicated oils, creams, ointments etc. My most frequently used form is as herbal tinctures, or herbs soaked in a mixture of alcohol (ethanol) and water, then strained and filtered. There are many reasons why this is considered the most generally useful and applicable form of herbal medicine, such as its ability to extract the majority of plant components, the preservative effect of the ethanol that allows tinctures to remain useable for a number of years, and its ease of administration by the patient. However there are situations where other forms are required and this is considered depending on the outcome of the patient assessment.
What a consultation involves
An evaluation is carried out to determine the nature of the particular patient's medical situation. This usually takes between 1 hour to 1 and a half hours. It involves assessing the individual by discussing such things as the main symptoms being experienced, symptoms that are experienced occasionally or were experienced in the past, a general investigation of all body systems/organs, patient and family medical history, current medication, diet and lifestyle influences, stress and emotional influences, and any other avenue that may assist in the understanding of why the patient is unwell and what can be done to help the patient achieve a healthier condition. These sessions are often a great opportunity for the patient to tell their story and express their concerns in a safe and non-judgemental environment, which can give great therapeutic benefits as well as contributing to the therapeutic relationship that is advantageous to the team work that is required for this kind of treatment. Physical examination is only rarely carried out, but examination of eyes and tongue, and observation of sites of symptoms may be advantageous. Subsequent consultations usually take place monthly, but may be necessary more frequently at the start of treatment. These are shorter sessions (between half hour and one hour) where the patient’s progress is evaluated, any concerns discussed, and the herbal prescription re-examined to ensure that the medicines prescribed are still the optimum blend for the patient. The prescription will change as treatment progresses and the health of the patient improves. The same herbal prescription is not used throughout treatment.
www.irch.org website of International Register of Consultant Herbalists
Location: Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. CF61 1UL
Hours: By appointment only. Telephone 07870 380834 or send message using 'Contact Peter' page on this website for further information or to make an appointment