Image showing a cup of herbal medicine tea

HERBAL MEDICINE AND NATUROPATHY – Oakleigh Naturopath Magda explains

Last month we talked about nutritional medicine, what it is and how it ties into naturopathy. This month, as a continuation we delve into herbal medicine, what it is and how it is used in healthcare.

WHAT IS HERBAL MEDICINE?

Herbal medicine is just that- using herbs and herbal extracts in a therapeutic manner. Herbal medicine stems from something as simple as a herbal tea to stronger forms of medicine such as herbal extracts and tinctures.

The most common and simple form of herbal medicine is tea. Although not as strong as tinctures, herbal teas have a very strong tradition of use. A commonly used herbal tea is chamomile tea. Chamomile as an herb has strong scientific evidence behind its use and effectiveness. It is great for the nervous system and sleep due to its calming effects, reduces cramps and hence aids digestion and bloating and it is additionally great for menstrual cramps.

Other popular herbal teas include peppermint tea (great for aiding digestion) and roast dandelion tea (for liver health and liver detox).

The next step up from herbal teas are herbal extracts or tinctures. These are a much more concentrated form of the herb and are prescribed by a herbalist or a naturopath. The doses of tinctures are much smaller than teas and stronger in taste also.

HOW DOES IT TIE INTO NATUROPATHY?

Naturopaths commonly use herbs and herbal medicine in their prescriptions. After taking a thorough case with someone, if herbs are indicated then either a herbal tea mix or herbal extract mix will be prescribed.

 

IS HERBAL MEDICINE SAFE?

Naturopaths use herbal medicine as it is a natural form of treatment. As mentioned earlier there is a strong traditional use of herbs that span back hundreds of years. Science and research has also caught up and in many cases has confirmed the traditional use of the herb.

Herbs work in a beautiful way in that they have more than one action. Going back to the chamomile example, it is known for its calming effects, however it also is great for digestive or menstrual cramps. Many herbs have more than one action and commonly can aid in a range of complaints.

Herbal medicines that are allowed for internal use are safe, however they are safe if they are taken properly and by following the instructions prescribed by a qualified practitioner.

 

DO HERBAL MEDICINES INTERACT WITH PHARMACEUTICAL MEDICINE?

It is very important to note that there are many interactions with herbs and pharmaceutical medicines. These interactions may be positive (meaning the herb increases the effectiveness of the medicine) or negative.

A common herb which interacts with medications is St.John’s Wort (known well for its use in mild depression and anxiety). St. John’s Wort should not be taken if already on medications for anxiety and/or depression. It is therefore very important to tell your herbalist or naturopath what medications you may be taking before taking any herbs. Additionally, it is always advised to check with your practitioner for interactions before self-prescribing with an over the counter herbal product.

Many herbs are also not safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding, highlighting the importance of consulting with a practitioner rather than picking up a product off the shelf.

HOW ARE HERBS TAKEN?

Herbs are taken either as a tea, or via a liquid extract. For therapeutic dosing a tea is usually taken at 3 cups per day. A liquid extract is a much smaller dose. Depending on a person’s presentation, a

liquid extract may be prescribed as little as 5ml per day or up to 15ml per day. These are much stronger than teas and hence, doses are much smaller.

The beauty of herbal medicine is that it is a individualised form of medicine. A herbalist or naturopath will combine the right mix of herbs just for you. This means less products to take as many complaints can be covered in just one tea or one bottle of herbs.

That’s pretty amazing!

Herbs can assist with many complaints including:

  • stress and anxiety
  • low mood
  • low energy/lethargy
  • headaches
  • sleep issues and insomnia
  • hormonal issues
  • high cholesterol and cardiovascular complaints
  • liver and kidney health and detoxification
Interested in trying herbal medicine?

Book in with our naturopath Magda- find her here on Thursdays!

Call (03) 9570 3388