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Western Herbalism

Posted Sep 14 2008 2:43am

Western herbal remedies can help to heal many chronic conditions which conventional drugs help only by relieving symptoms. They are gentle yet powerful healers that can help restore and re-balance both body and mind. They work with your body to promote its healing and, in most cases, have no side effects at all. The benefits of herbs result from the combination of many different active ingredients acting in harmony in each remedy.

Herbalism is probably the oldest form of medicine. In second-century Greece, the physician Galen spoke of plant remedies and the herbal tradition stayed popular until the introduction of our modem medicines (many of which are derived from traditional herbal cures). Western herbalism is well respected and is gradually becoming increasingly mainstream. Herbalism is based on the observation of the benefits of herbs that have been tried and tested for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Western herbal medicines work by affecting the organs and systems of the body directly. They are said to have three functions: to cleanse, heal and nourish. Before the body can restore full health, it needs to get rid of chemical and other imbalances. Herbs can be used as diuretics and laxatives to help this re-balancing process. The next step is to use herbs to stimulate the body’s own self-healing powers and attack the cause of illness. Thirdly, herbs can nourish all the different systems and organs of the body.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Western Herbalism

Loose chamomile tea with dried bits of apple a... At first sight the procedure is comfortingly similar to that of visiting your GP. The herbalist will ask what is wrong and will want to know all your symptoms, past medical history and any family health weaknesses. Then he will examine you using conventional techniques like taking your pulse and blood pressure.

However, a herbalist may want to look far deeper into your state of health. As Andrew Chevallier of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists explains, a herbalist looks at your entire lifestyle, to find the reasons for your illness and ways to restore you to good health. “You can just take the herbs,” says Chevallier, “but if you want the best out of herbal medicine you have to combine it with a positive attitude towards getting well.” That will generally mean a diet sheet of sensible eating habits; a gentle nudge towards regular enjoyable exercise and thinking about how your lifestyle is affecting your health. Finally, there are the herbs - maybe six or more - combined into a tincture (not boiled as with Chinese herbs), which is usually taken three times a day. Sometimes you may be given pills, or fresh or dried herbs to use in infusions (teas made by steeping herbs in boiling water) or decoctions (teas made by boiling herbs with water for ten minutes).

The hope for the future is that herbal clinics will receive NHS funding. Indeed, most herbalists feel they could save the NHS a great deal of time and resources. By spotting disease early they say they could nip prob­lems in the bud, and thus prevent the need for expensive medication or surgery.

Proof That Western Herbalism Works

Research into the precise effects of herbs is ongoing. One of the most exciting discoveries of recent years concerns St John’s wort. Extensive research in Germany suggests that the plant has a host of actions including an effect on the nerve messengers in the brain. In Germany GPs use it as an alternative to anti-depressant drugs because it seems to be as effective yet is safe and non-habit forming.

Many people say that herbalism has not only restored their health but totally changed their lives. “You see people come in looking or feeling ill,” says Andrew Chevallier. “If they had conventional medicine they would probably get well again but they wouldn’t get healthy. One of the joys of being a herbalist is that you can visibly see people change - they have a quality of health; they actually look healthy. When you think that you are giving your body the chance to be as fit as it would like to be, it’s not really that surprising.”

Western Herbalism Is Good For:

  • rheumatism & arthritis
  • skin conditions
  • menstrual & menopausal problems
  • headaches & migraine
  • depression
  • stress
  • anxiety & sleep problems

Herbal Teas And Tisanes

Herbal teas make a pleasant, healthy change from tea and coffee. Use ready made herbal tea bags or make your own tea by pouring hot water over a strainer containing 2 teaspoons of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. Cover the cup for 10 minutes, remove strainer, add honey to sweeten and enjoy.

Chamomile Herbal Tea
GOOD FOR: stress, insomnia, indigestion, poor appetite, irritable bowel syndrome.
DRINK IT: a cup at night for insomnia. As needed otherwise.

Fennel Herbal Tea
GOOD FOR: all kinds of digestive problems from flatulence to indigestion.
DRINK IT: after dinner as a digestive or when the digestive system is out of sorts.

Lemon Balm Herbal Tea
GOOD FOR: depression, tiredness, exhaustion.
DRINK IT: when you feel down; when you sense a cold or flu is coming on.

Mint Herbal Tea
GOOD FOR: travel sickness, indigestion, flatulence, headaches.
DRINK IT: when you feel sick or queasy, when you need a pick-me-up.

Nettle Herbal Tea
GOOD FOR: arthritis, eczema, stimulating the circulation, rheumatism.
DRINK IT: when you need a tonic, your system needs cleansing or with a short, detoxi­fying diet.

Hops Herbal Tea
GOOD FOR: insomnia, soothing, relaxing.
DRINK IT: as a bedtime drink; when you’re tense and irritable.

Western Herbalism:

AVAILABILITY - Widespread

MEDICAL EVIDENCE - Good

MEDICAL ACCEPTANCE - Mixed

SELF HELP - Limited

Image credit: Wikipedia

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