Herbal medicine uses plant extracts - from seeds, leaves, flowers, bark or whole plants - as a therapeutic tool. Plants have been used for medicinal purposes throughout recorded history - traditionally dispensed in decoctions, teas and baths. With the advent of science and modern medicine, specific constituents (the active ingredients) can be extracted and compounded into powders, tablets or liquid tinctures. Many common pharmaceutical medicines began as plant extracts - such as Aspirin and Digoxin - only to be refined and re-produced in synthetic form.
How does herbal medicine work?
Herbal medicines contain many constituents that work in synergy - with a large number of active ingredients contributing to the therapeutic result. This is why whole plant extracts can be more effective - and produce fewer side effects - than isolated compounds. It's true what they say: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
A herbal medicine practitioner may prescribe remedies that provide symptomatic relief, but will also look at the underlying cause of an illness. In all natural medicine models, treating the whole person and treating the underlying cause are central philosophies. That is because health - and disease - is affected by a complex set of factors, including physical health, mental health, emotional wellbeing, genetic tendencies, environmental influences, and dietary intake. Herbalists recognise these intricate interactions, recommending treatments that aim to create overall balance and address underlying factors.