There are many important differences between herbal medicine and what we often call ‘orthodox’ or modern medicine. Obviously, herbal medicine is based on natural plant medicine. While orthodox medicine has its roots in herbalism, it has evolved into something quite different. In a high-tech, knowledge based society, we have learnt many valuable things through the advances in modern medical science about how the body works, and how diseases affect us. This knowledge has been useful but perhaps it has also cost us something, if we now reject much of the wisdom which sprung from our deep connection with the natural world and spanned many centuries of observation and empirical practice.
Many drugs prescribed today may still be derived from plants. Usually however, once the chemical profile of an active ingredient has been identified, it is often synthesised for manufacture on a very large scale. This synthesised ingredient may be powerful and fast acting but does not have the benefit of being modified. A key difference between herbal and pharmaceutical medicine is that the whole plant is used in herbal medicine, resulting in fewer side-effects. Plants have many different constituents which work together, with some modifying more powerful actions, making their effect on the body more gentle. These are the main reasons why herbal medicine is generally acknowledged as a safer form of medicine than its modern counterpart.
Herbal medicine can and does address the underlying problem. Modern medical practice is often very concerned with prescribing a drug which targets a presenting symptom. Of course herbal medicine does play a role in relieving symptoms, but this in itself is not enough. A herbalist needs to have the necessary skills to identify the underlying deficiency or problem behind the symptoms in order to address the root cause of illness and restore balance.
Another important difference is the individual nature of the herbalist’s prescription. From the first visit, you will be given a herbal prescription which is formulated to address your needs. This tailored prescription will be adjusted in follow-up visits as your condition changes and is designed to resolve long-standing imbalances. It can take time to treat some conditions and bring about a more complete recovery, in some cases it takes a number of months. Getting the right herbal prescription for your condition can help bring about a complete resolution over time. There is a quality of wellbeing attached to this healing which is rewarding for the herbalist to witness as people report better energy levels, and perhaps a zest for life they thought had long gone.
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