In today's herbalism, sometimes known as Phytotherapy, plants from around the world are used to treat a wide variety of conditions. As a holistic medical approach, herbalism works to restore the body's vital force - its own self-healing capacity to protect, regulate, renew and heal itself on every level: physically, mentally and emotionally. In this way, it also works to prevent a condition recurring. Importantly, it is the person who is treated and not just the condition; symptoms are regarded as the body's attempt to maintain balance and harmony. Practitioners exercise their knowledge of herbal synergy which is based on using parts of whole plants which contain a complex mix of active ingredients for medicinal effect. Herbalism is said to be beneficial for most illnesses, respiratory and circulatory conditions, and others including depression and insomnia. It is believed that over 80% of the world's population turns to herbal remedies for health. Famously, echinacea is used to stimulate the immune system; garlic has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and fat levels, and St John's wort is effective for depression.
Practised for thousands of years, western herbalism forms the basis of many modern medicines, but it has reasserted itself as a treatment in its own right. The curative qualities of medicinal plants and flowers are rooted in the folklore of virtually every culture. Native European knowledge was enhanced by that of the Egyptians, Romans and Islamic cultures brought to the west by the Crusaders; this was later advanced by Paracelsus, the 16th century scientist, and Nicholas Culpeper. As science advanced, herbalism waned in Europe, only to flourish elsewhere. We can thank the Pilgrim Fathers, who augmented their knowledge with American Indian herblore. Herbal schools were established in the US and the popularity of modern western herbalism was revived in the UK in the 19th century.
What to Expect
As a holistic treatment, herbalism takes account of all aspects of your life and not just your presenting symptoms. And the diagnosis is extensive; it may surprise you to be asked about your attitudes to the environment, or about your childhood. In addition to discussing your health and lifestyle, a practitioner will usually take your pulse and listen to your lungs and heart. Having checked your body he or she will then prescribe herbal remedies to stimulate the appropriate system. The remedies themselves may be in one of a number of forms, including tablets, creams, poultices and tinctures. It is important that you advise the herbalist of any prescribed medicine you may be taking. Herbalism is not recommended for those with epilepsy and insulin-dependent diabetes.
Training & Colleges
Qualified practitioners will have taken a course ranging from four-years, full-time BSc (Hons) degree course in herbal medicine to a two year part time course.
The School of Phytotherapy
Bodle Street Green
East Sussex BN27 4RJ
tel:01323 833 812
There are a number of different bodies. Many have come under the umbrella of the recently formed
European Herbal Practitioners Association
Midsummer Cottage Clinic,
tel:01993 830 419
They are actively seeking statutory registrations for their members, in discussions with The Dept of Health.
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists
56 Longbrook Street
Devon EX4 6AH
British Herbal Medicine Association
PO Box 304
Dorset BH7 6JZ