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Herbs as Medicines

Does a Herbalist use extracts of plants?

In Herbal Medicine whole plants are used, not extracts of isolated chemical constituents taken from plants.

The reason that Medical Herbalists prefer to use whole plants is connected with the synergistic action of the individual chemical constituents found in each plant.

MeadowsweetSynergy is where the sum is greater than the parts.
This is illustrated in the case of a commonly used plant Filipendula ulmaria or Meadowsweet herb.
Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid – the compound from which the drug Aspirin was formed.
Most of us know that Aspirin can cause gastic ulceration. Meadowsweet contains mucilages and tannins which appear to buffer the effects of the isolated salicytes.
In fact Meadowsweet is a key herb in treating gastic complaints such as heartburn and peptic ulceration, and it protects and soothes the mucous membranes of the digestive tract.

DandelionDifferent parts of the plant often have different actions, for example Dandelion root is an excellent medicine for the liver, whilst the leaf of the Dandelion plant has a diuretic action, therefore having more affinity with kidney function, Dandelion leaf is  also  a rich source of pottassium, therefore unlike pharmaceutical diuretics will not leech pottassium out of the body, but will rather replenish any that is taken from the body with the diuretic action.

What form is the medicine prescribed in?

tincture bottlesMost Medical Herbalists will have a dispensary stocked with around 200 different herbs and many prescribe mainly tinctures which are alchoholic extracts of whole plants.

This is because the tinctures are easy for a person to take, for example one teaspoon 3 times daily in water is a commonly prescribed dosage.

However, Herb Tea’s may also be prescribed, and in some cases capsules.

If you are unable or do not want to take alcohol, alternatives such as glycerine based tinctures, aromatic waters, capsules and herb teas are avaliable.

If necessary a Herbalist can also make a cream, ointment or lotion for external use.