What is Phytotherapy?
What can you expect when you visit a phytotherapist?
- The first visit may take an hour or more to gather a thorough history.
- A biopsychosocial approach is taken to gather both a current and overall health history, as well as establish health goals.
- Underlying imbalances, broad patterns and root causes of health issues are assessed.
- A medical examination is conducted.
- A treatment plan is discussed that includes herbal medicine, and the implementation of
dietary and lifestyle change.
- Further blood tests, scans, or diagnostic procedures may be requested.
- Herbal medicine is formulated and dispensed with an explanation of how to take it.
Phytotherapy provides many health benefits
- Phytotherapy Practitioners are trained to know what herbs and drugs interact, making herbal medicine safe to use.
- Herbal medicine has bioactive compounds that can modulate biological systems.
- Herbal medicine has fewer side effects than modern drugs in the treatment of chronic diseases.
- Herbal medicine can elicit a therapeutic effect, and progress can be monitored with blood and functional tests.
- Phytotherapy treats the whole person in the context of all aspects of individual life: physiology, behaviour, the environment, and consciousness.
Herbal Medicine Preparations
Herbal medicine is the use of either whole plants or parts of plants to make medicine. Herbs contain
thousands of chemical compounds, that interact with the body in complex ways. Phytotherapists
learn how to prepare and administer the plant in the correct form and dosage to get the maximum
benefit. Effective herbalism requires knowing how to prepare the plant and how to best use it.
- This could be a fresh or dried herb taken as a tea.
- Dried herbs can be powdered to make capsules or tablets.
- Frequently a tincture is prescribed to be taken orally. Tinctures are made from herbs
steeped in alcohol and water to extract the chemical constituents.
- Herbs may be infused in oil and used topically. Distilled herbs or essential oils can be added to an ointment or given as a steam inhalation. Creams, lotions, and gels may be administered for topical or internal application.
- Herbal syrups are more palatable for children.
- Sometimes fresh leaves of an herb are chewed or used as a poultice.
Herbal Medicine compared to conventional drugs
The premise of herbal medicine is to use either the whole plant or selected parts as required. This
enables the synergistic interaction of the plants’ array of chemical constituents to provide a potentiating effect in interacting with the body’s own intelligence.
The pharmaceutical industry also uses plants to manufacture medicine. In most cases they isolate
one active compound from the array of chemical constituents an individual plant has. This one
isolate is sufficiently concentrated to form a drug that may have side effects. An example of this is Aspirin. The chemical constituent salycilate was isolated from the bark of Salix alba the common Willow and Spirea ulmarea syn. Fillipendula ulmaria known as Meadowsweet. Alone, salicyclic acid can irritate the gastric mucosa and cause gastric bleeding. It’s important to remember that concentrated compounds are not necessarily more effective.
The Advantages of Herbal Medicine
- Herbal medicine facilitates homeostasis, enlivening the body’s own healing resources.
- Treatment is aimed at addressing underlying root causes, customised for the individual.
- Phytochemicals activate adaptive cellular stress response pathways and have neuroprotective effects.
- Herbal medicine supports immune function without causing antibiotic resistance.
- Many herbs have an antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral action in the body, reducing the susceptibility to infections and allergies.
- Herbs support digestion and plant foods generate healthy and diverse microbiota.
- Herbal medicine can calm or stimulate organ systems to restore coherent self-organisation.
- Herbs may be taken to enhance lifespan and quality of life.
- Herbal medicine is non-polluting to the environment, once excreted.
- Medicinal herbs are preferably sourced from sustainable herb growers or sustainably wild-harvested. No endangered herb species are used.
- Herbs for medicinal use are frequently cultivated using biodynamic principles or grown organically, without the use of harmful pesticides or endocrine disruptor herbicides.
- Using Herbal medicine allows the patient to reconnect with the natural world and to reestablish natural rhythms