What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal Medicine is the use of plants as medicines and thus encompasses many forms of practice. It is fundamental to primary health care worldwide.

How do I identify a trained practitioner of herbal medicine?

Members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists have trained for 4 years before becoming members of the Institute. Training involves western medical sciences such as; anatomy and physiology, diagnosis, clinical methods, plant sciences such as pharmacology, botony and pharmacognosy, plant actions or materia medica, philosophy and therapeutics and finally nutritional influences on health and illness. Members of The National Institute of Medical Herbalists adhere to a strict professional code of ethics, have full professional insurance and programme of continuing professional development. The NIMH was founded in 1864 and membership has been by examination since 1902. It has departments for education, research, quality and safety, information dissemination, media relations, thnobotony and clinical audit.

What is a herbal practitioner?
Herbal practitioners see members by appointment, take a full medical history, make physical examination as appropriate and discuss relevant factors such as diet, nutrition, exercise, home circumstances and emotional influences.

Prescriptions are usually made up at the consultation. Practitioners vary in the range of herbs used but, as a guide, I have over 150 in my dispensary made from European, North American, Chinese and some tropical plants.

What will happen if I visit a NIMH member?
Initial consultations usually last between 60 and 90 minutes. One of the practitioners aims will be to enable an individual to become more involved in their health care and health promotion. Herbalist and patient will try to identify underlying causes of illness thus working holistically and individually. Many people who seek help from practitioners have chronic (long term) and interconnected symptoms, may be taking pharmacuetical drugs and require careful monitoring and evaluation.

Following an initial visit the practitioner may see the patient two to three weeks afterwards depending upon the severity of their symptoms. Combinations of herbs in different forms are prescribed and as progress is made the prescription and outcomes are evaluated and the choice of herbs reviewed. Herbalists may also make dietary recommendations to individuals where appropriate.

Can’t I simply buy some herbal tea bags and use those?
Many herbs can be used safely in the home for acute, self limiting conditions or to enhance health and well being. The National Institute of Medical Herbalists recommends the following: if you have a chronic health problems, are taking prescribed drugs from your doctor, are pregnant or breastfeeding, seek help from a qualified practitioner.

Can you give me examples of conditions that herbalists treat?
Herbalists treat people first! No one prescription will be the same for two people. Underlying causes of illness, resistance to stress, hereditary tendencies, medication all dictate an individual approach.

However herbalists can and do treat a wide variety of people with conditions affecting all systems of the body i.e, digestive problems, circulatory problems (such as high blood pressure), gynaecological problems (such as pre menstrual or menopausal problems), emotional health symptoms such as depression, insomnia, panic attacks etc, conditions affecting the joints and the urinary system.

How do I find a practitioner in my area?
Call the NIMH head office for a list of qualified members world wide. If you would like advice on any aspect of herbal medicine you can also call the head office who will put you in contact with a qualified practitioner.

Information Courtesy of:
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists 56 Longbrook Street Exeter Devon EX4 6AH

01392 426022 Please enclose an A5 SAE for 100g postage weight.

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