Herbal Medicine

What is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine, also known as phytotherapy, botanical medicine or plant-based medicine, uses plant leaves, roots, stems, buds, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and resins, to prevent and treat disease and improve general health and wellbeing. It is one of the oldest traditional systems of medicine, pre-dating recorded history and described in ancient Egyptian and Chinese texts. Today, herbal medicine is still the most widely used form of medicine worldwide: in parts of Africa and Asia it is estimated that 80% of the population rely on it for primary health care.

Western herbal medicine has its roots in the herbal traditions of the indigenous peoples of the British Isles, and early Greek and Roman medical practices. However, as cultures travelled further and exchanged knowledge and resources, so Western herbal medicine evolved and today it is not unusual to be prescribed medicinal plants originally from other traditions such as Echinacea from North America, Ginseng from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ashwanganda from Ayurveda. Today, Western medical herbalists combine the traditional use of herbs with up-to-date scientific research to safely and effectively treat with herbs.

Herbal medicine uses the whole plant which contains numerous constituents including many active ingredients (often largely unidentified), together with various nutrients e.g. vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes and hormones. Whilst a quarter of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from plants, these use single isolated constituents or a synthesised version e.g. Warfarin  is derived from sweet clover (Melliotus officinalis), Digoxin from foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and Aspirin from white willow (Salix alba). Herbal medicine provides a balanced, gentle, safe and effective approach to healing, far less likely to cause unwanted side-effects than pharmaceutical drugs.

How is herbal medicine dispensed?

Typically medicines are prescribed as tinctures i.e. alcohol-based liquid extracts. Alternatively or additionally, a variety of other forms may be given including fresh or dried herb teascapsules, tablets, creams, ointments, lotions, fresh juices, syrups and compresses may also be given. Each usually contain a number of herbs, blended to your specific individual needs.

Brookfield herbal has a strong ecological and environmental ethos: the majority of herbs dispensed are organic or wild-crafted in origin; any paper used is either recycled or from sustainable sources; and where possible the use of plastics especially those which are non-biodegradable is avoided.

Who can benefit from herbal medicine?

The individualised and person-centred approach of herbal medicine means it is suitable for everyone: from young to old; from pre-conception to palliative care; for acute and chronic conditions whether physical, emotional or mental. Herbal medicines can be used alongside prescription and over-the-counter medication, as well as other therapies: medical herbalists are trained to prescribe safely by considering your specific circumstances, including any orthodox drugs you are taking and any potential herb-drug interactions, and prescribing accordingly. As health professionals, medical herbalists have an excellent safety record.

What conditions can herbal medicine be used for?

Herbal medicine can support the management of a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, including:

Digestive & bowel conditions: Constipation, Diarrhoea, Ulcers, Indigestion, Irritable bowel syndrome & Inflammatory bowel diseases.

Circulatory conditions: High blood pressure, High cholesterol, Angina, Varicose veins and ulcers, Haemorrhoids & Raynaud’s disease.

Respiratory conditions: Asthma, Hayfever, Bronchitis, Sinusitis, Coughs, Colds & Ear infections.

Skin conditions: Eczema, Psoriasis, Acne & Fungal infections.

Musculoskeletal disorders: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Gout, Fibromyalgia, Bursitis, Tendonitis, Muscular aches & pains.

Nervous system disorders: Anxiety, Stress, Depression, Insomnia, Headaches & Migraines.

Urinary disorders: Cystitis & other urinary tract infections.

Women’s Health: Menstrual problems, Endometriosis, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Menopausal symptoms, Thrush, Sub-fertility, Pregnancy & childbirth.

Men’s Health: Prostate problems including Benign prostate hypertrophy & Sub-fertility.

Other conditions: Children’s health, Convalescence, Chronic fatigue, Immune imbalance, Support in chronic illness & stopping smoking.