Herbal Medicine

What is herbal medicine? 

Here and now in the western world, it simply means the use of plants, or extracts from plants, to improve health.  It’s the detail that can be confusing.  Traditional Chinese medicine, for example, includes all sorts of things such as talc and ‘dragon bones’ (fossilised dinosaur bones), which are certainly not herbal.  Then there is a whole range of therapies that may be derived from plants, but which move away from using the whole plant.  Some have no measurable trace of plant material at all, such as homeopathic remedies or flower remedies.  Some will isolate part of the plant, like the essential oils used in aromatherapy.  And there is a vast array of herbal products on sale that use ‘standardised extracts’; that is, the main active constituent of the herb will be standardised so that there is always the same amount per dose.  And last but not least, there are all the orthodox drugs that are plant-derived, usually from just one active constituent.

Western herbalists tend to prefer whole plant extracts, because when you start to mess about with the natural balance in the plant, something is lost.  We like to use the simplest preparations, such as teas, tinctures and powders, rather than tablets and mass-produced formulae, because that way you retain as much of the vitality of the herb as possible, and you can tailor the remedy to the individual patient.  It is the life force of the herb that is important, as well as its chemical components.

But it’s not just about the remedies.

Herbal medicine is much more like food than drugs, and if you take herbs without looking at your diet as well, you may be missing half the picture.  Your food affects your health:  what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat.  The amount of exercise you take makes a profound difference to your wellbeing.  How much sleep you get, how you handle stress, what your life is like.  What about inherited conditions and your own health history?  The list goes on.  What this means is that the herb which worked for your friend may not work for you.  The wonderful remedy you used five years ago may not get the same results now.  Life is complicated, but this is a cause for celebration, not despair.  There are so many herbs with something to offer us that we can never run out of options.  


  1. Hi people! Does anyone know where I can get more information about this?

    Venessa Nicoletti Thu, 24 Nov 2011

  2. Hi dude! Where can I find additional posts about this?

    Rhiannon Catignani Thu, 17 Nov 2011

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