Humans have been harnessing the medicinal benefits of plants for thousands of years. Plant medicines form the basis of today’s modern medicine.
What is Western Herbal Medicine?
Modern western herbal medicine, also known as Botanical Medicine or Phytotherapy is herbal medicine for the 21st century. It draws on knowledge gained from our ancestors combined with modern medical and scientific knowledge. Resulting in the use of plant preparations to treat and prevent illness.
How Herbal Medicine and conventional drugs differ
Phytochemicals derived from plants are commonly used in conventional drugs like Digoxin, Aspirin and Morphine. When plants are used in mainstream medicine one ‘active’ single phytochemical from the plant material is extracted. This enables the pharmaceutical companies to patent it, concentrate and chemically manipulate the phytochemical and put it into a tablet, capsule or liquid. By contrast, in Western Herbal Medicine not just one chemical constituent is extracted from the plant but most of the phytochemicals. This is often referred to as a ‘whole plant extract’. A whole plant extract has numerous therapeutic advantages. Each plant contains thousands of phytochemicals that as research has often shown work in synergy with each other, meaning that a whole plant extract will often achieve a far greater therapeutic effect than compared with a single isolated phytochemical.
When an isolated chemical from a plant is changed into a conventional drug the initial benefit is that the effects are stronger. However, this comes with a far greater risk of unwanted side-effects.
Benefits of Herbal Medicine
In comparison, herbal medicines do contain scientifically proven active plant constituents which have a therapeutic effect on target tissues within the body and act in the same manner as pharmaceutical drugs, yet, they are gentler acting and the potential of side-effects is reduced. In addition, each plant medicine contains not just one, but a variety of therapeutic phytochemicals. This means that one plant can often address several desired therapeutic actions in the body at the same time, enabling the cause of illness can to be addressed rather than just suppressing the symptoms and masking the problem.
Aims of Western Herbal Medicine
The main aims of Western Herbal Medicine are disease prevention and long-term health. This is achieved by addressing the underlying causes of disease, treating the patient as an individual and as a whole, working effectively alongside conventional medicine and creating a patient centred holistic treatment approach.