As Naturopaths, we have many tools in our tool kits to achieve the best health outcomes for our patients. Herbal medicines are one of my favourites — harnessing the power of plants to treat disease and enhance your overall wellbeing.
What is herbal medicine?
Herbal medicine is the use of medicinal plants to treat disease and enhance overall wellbeing. It’s the oldest and most widely used system of medicine in the world today.
There are many different types of herbal medicines that come from different cultures. Western, Aboriginal, Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) are most common in Australia, although there are also many other cultures that have their own unique and traditional herbal treatments.
Is herbal medicine effective?
Many plants have potent effects and should be taken with the same level of caution as pharmaceutical medications. In fact, many modern medications are based on man-made versions of naturally occurring chemicals found in plants. For example, the heart medication digoxin is derived from foxglove or Digitalis purpurea.
How herbal medicine can help you
There are so many benefits of herbal medicine:
It’s made just for you — every herbal mix is made to suit your exact needs. There really is a skill in creating an effective herbal mix. That’s why it’s important to see an experienced Naturopath who can create a herbal mixture that works holistically to support your body.
You only have to take one mix — your Naturopath will create a personalised, all-in-one mixture that addresses your health needs.
It can have a synergistic effect — meaning all of the herbs in the mixture can work together to get an even better outcome for your health.
It utilises the whole plant — this means you get the benefits of the whole plant, not just an isolated extract.
It treats the cause of your condition — herbal medicines are very powerful and can be the key to unlocking the underlying cause of your health condition, not just treating the symptoms.
It has fewer side effects compared to conventional medicine.
My top 5 herbal medicines
1. Withania — a wonderful herb to support women’s health. Withania is an adaptogen, meaning it helps to relieve stress by modulating the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands. It’s also helpful for cognition, sleep and anxiety.
2. Echinacea — this herb is fantastic for boosting your immunity. Recent studies have shown iot reduces the number of recurrent colds caught by up to 60% and if you do catch a cold or flu, it reduces the length of illness by 25%. It does this by boosting your white blood cell count, helping your immune system to be more vigilant in fighting cold and flu viruses as you come into contact with them. Recent studies have also found echinacea can work to stimulate the anterior pituitary-adrenal cortex to boost adrenal health.
3. Saint Mary’s Thistle — otherwise known as Milk Thistle, is a herbal medicine used to treat liver problems like cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders. Silymarin is the main active ingredient in milk thistle, which is both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
4. Licorice — the licorice root is another adaptogen which helps to address adrenal fatigue and stress. It does this by modulating the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands. It’s also used to treat digestive problems, respiratory problems and skin conditions.
5. Lemon balm — is wonderful for easing anxiety. This perennial herb is from the mint family and contains chemicals that have a sedative, calming effect. It can also be used to help with digestive problems.
What’s the difference between a Naturopath and a herbalist?
In terms of education, a Herbalist studies herbal medicine while a Naturopath studies nutrition, homeopathy and lifestyle medicine in addition to herbal medicine.
Naturopaths focus on treating the body as a whole — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A Naturopath can also prescribe nutritional formulas, detox programs and other medicines in addition to being qualified herbal medicine practitioners. Read more about what a Naturopath can do for you.
How to get started with herbal medicines
Our brand new Herb Bar is the new way to access free advice from a qualified Naturopath, practitioner-grade natural supplements and herbal medicines to help you feel well again. Just drop by to our Hamilton practice and see how we can help you.