What is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal medicine is medicine made from plants, either the whole plant or sometimes parts of it, for example leaves, flowers, roots or bark.
How does a herbal practitioner work?
Herbal medicine focuses on the patient and the cause of their illness rather than the symptoms that they have. The choice of herbs that a practitioner prescribes is based on detailed information given to the practitioner by the patient and the result of any clinical examination carried out during the consultation. This allows a bespoke, personalised prescription to be created.
Treating the cause not just the symptoms
Medical herbalists make use of plants whose traditional uses are backed up by modern scientific research and clinical trials. She/ he will hold a BSc degree or equivalent in Herbal Medicine; will have studied orthodox medicine (anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and nutrition)as well as plant medicine; will have undertaken over 500 hours of clinical training and will be trained in the same diagnostic skills as a GP. However, herbalists take a holistic approach to illness, treating the underlying cause of disease rather than just the symptoms. They are able to prescribe herbal remedies to be used alongside other medication and treatments, and many patients are referred to a herbalist by their GP for treatment.
Members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists practice herbal medicine to the highest ethical standards.as set out in the Code of Ethics and Practice. These include guidance to members on the proper standards of good practice with respect to their:
- obligations to patients
- obligations in practice
- relationships with patients and professional colleagues
- legal obligations and observation of good practice
- commercial obligations
- obligations as a teacher
- standards of behaviour
- awareness of safeguarding issues
- handling of complaints and concerns
The herbal medicines
Patients can be confident that herbal medicines dispensed by a Medical Herbalist are made using the best quality ingredients available, these may be made by the herbalist or produced by reputable manufacturers to the highest standards and subject to proper quality controls. Wherever possible, plant materials are grown organically, and sourced sustainably. We do not endorse products which involve harvesting endangered plant species from the wild.
Use of animal derived products
Plant derived medicine
The practice of ‘traditional’ herbal medicine involves the use of only plant materials to assist wellbeing. Animal derived products such as beeswax and propolis (a resin produced by bees) are sometimes used, particularly to make creams, ointments and salves. Vegan alternatives are often available. Non-gelatine containing capsules and vegetable glycerine are preferred by herbalists.
Alcohol based tinctures
Medical herbalists often use concentrated plant extracts where a very small amount of alcohol is used to help extract and preserve the active ingredients of the plant. For patients who are unable to take medicines containing alcohol for any reason there are always other options available.
Animal testing and research
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists does not support the use of animal testing for herbal products. Herbal research derived from studies based on the use of laboratory animals is also not encouraged for reasons of both animal welfare and concerns over their relevance to human herbal interventions.