"Medicine of the past and the future"
In its widest definition, Herbal Medicine or Phytotherapy covers an extensive array of plant based therapies across the world. These include traditions dating back thousands of years such as Traditonal Chinese Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine, Thai Medicine and Ayurveda - each with it's own unique medical model, methods of diagnosis and treatments.
The United Kingdom is unique in Europe, as the right of herbalists to practise freely was enshrined in English law nearly 500 years ago by King Henry VIII in the 'Herbalist's Charter'. This allowed the immensely important work of herbalists such as Nicholas Culpeper and John Gerard to continue and form the basis of modern Western Herbalism.
The World Health Organisation estimates that over 80% of the world's population relies on plant derived medicines for thier healthcare. However, the position of Herbal Medicine in the West has changed considerably over the last hundred years. From being one of the primary sources of healthcare, it's popularity faded with the development of modern pharmaceutical medicine, despite the fact that many pharmaceutical drugs are based on chemicals extracted from plants. Today, there is a resurgence in the popularity of Phytotherapy as the application of scientific research is provides a growing bank of evidence backing the efficacy of Herbal Medicine.
"Treating the causes of dis-ease"
A major distinguishing factor of Herbal Medicine is the approach to treatment taken by a Medical Herbalist. This differs from that of a traditonal (allopathic) medical doctor, as a course of treatment is usually based upon trying to resolve the underlying cause of illness rather than just the alleviation or masking of symtoms. Commonly termed a 'holistic' approach, in addition to an orthodox medical examination, the herbalist will consider most aspects of the patient's life. This may include many factors such as nutrition, digestion, living and working environments, diet, sleep and state of mind. This results in treatments being highly individualised rather than a standard prescription for a particular ailment.
The advice and medicine offered is often aimed at provding a positive impetus for the individual to take control of their life and where necessary make changes to maintain better physical, emotional and mental health.