Christopher Etheridge PhD MCPP
MRSC, BSc (Hons) Phyto, BSc (Hons) Chem, CChem, DoIC, ARCS
The health benefits and advantages of Western herbal medicine
Herbal medicine (Phytotherapy) is the oldest and most universal system of medicine – the basis for all modern medicine.
Phytotherapy (phyto is Greek for plant) is advanced herbal medicine for the 21st century with the deep healing powers of ancient practice.
Herbal medicine has been used and trusted globally for thousands of years as a highly effective and safe method of treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 80% of the world’s population currently depends on herbal medicine for its primary healthcare.
What is herbal medicine?
In phytotherapy, plant medicines are prescribed to stimulate and strengthen the body’s normal functions, helping the body to heal itself naturally. Herbal medicine is perfectly safe and gentle for all people and age groups – including children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers – as long as the treatment is closely supervised by a professionally trained Medical Herbalist.
What is Western herbal medicine?
Modern Western herbal medicine is very different in its philosophy, approach and applications from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and homeopathy.
Phytotherapists are university-trained to rigorously high standards. (Click here for course details.)
All of the medicines they use have been approved by professional research and evidence.
Phytotherapists combine orthodox medical knowledge and skills with the long-established traditional uses of herbs. They enhance these ancient practices with the most up-to-date scientific understandings of plant medicines.
Phytotherapy selects herbs mainly from the Western herbal tradition (British, European and North American). It also provides in-depth nutritional and lifestyle guidance. Together, these elements create a holistic treatment plan for each patient’s individual needs.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
Pharmaceutical companies are unable to patent plant extracts because they are natural products. They are therefore under pressure to isolate only the most active chemical from a plant and transform it into a new chemical. They can then patent this new chemical commercially for use in a prescription medicine. But any single plant contains many different active chemicals that work in synergy with each other. The sum of their combined effects is always greater than their individual activity. When an isolated chemical from a plant is changed into a pharmaceutical drug, this synergy is lost and the risk of side-effects is greatly increased. This is because the moderating influence of other chemicals in the plant has been removed.
Less is more
In phytotherapy, every plant medicine contains a variety of potent active ingredients. These often work together to create several therapeutic actions in the body at the same time. The potentially strong side-effects of an isolated plant chemical are balanced, reversed or removed altogether by the plant’s other compounds. Because of this natural synergy, less herbal medicine is needed than with a pharmaceutical drug equivalent to produce the same effects.
Safe and versatile
As herbal medicine is so subtle and versatile, it can help to treat a range of illnesses effectively that orthodox medicine generally cannot, such as arthritis, eczema and psoriasis. In medicines administered by a fully qualified Medical Herbalist, there are unlikely to be any side effects or interactions with any prescription medicines that you may also be taking.
Preventing disease and promoting long-term health
The main aims of herbal medicine are disease prevention and long-term health. These aims are achieved by treating and rebalancing the patient as a whole.
Orthodox medicine only treats the patient’s immediate symptoms without addressing the underlying health imbalance. It prescribes medicines that mask the symptoms in the short term, like putting a plaster over a wound that does not heal.
Phytotherapy works beyond these surface symptoms to heal the whole person at the deepest levels. It does this by tackling the underlying causes of disease, and by supporting long-term good health.