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Herbalism and Modern Medicine

If you do decide to go out foraging in the wild there are numerous guides which can assist you with the identification of plants and many herbals which contain information about their constituents and uses. If, after reading the various guides, you still don’t entirely trust yourself to choose the right herbs you could consult a qualified herbalist. There are many whose services are listed in telephone directories and on the WWW. Look for the word ‘phytotherapist’ if you seek a practitioner who has scientific knowledge of plant remedies.

Incidentally the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy, which “exists to protect the public interest” (their words) is currently campaigning for the British people’s right to access the herbal medicines they require. The CPP is currently participating in a consultation with the UK government and calling for the statutory regulation of herbal medicines. This government is considering bringing in voluntary regulation which, according to the CPP, will take away the British people’s right to use a full range of herbs and preparations by making some of them illegal, (such as Atropa belladonna and Ephedra sinica) , including the majority of traditional Chinese and Indian remedies.

HerbalismSome people might object to scientific interventions in the field of herbalism because they’ve become disillusioned with medical science, wish to avoid their doctor like the plague and simply go back to nature. Their distrust is understandable, in view of the warnings about the damaging effects of processed foods and pharmaceuticals so often reported in the media nowadays. The objectors might argue that people got by before medical doctors arrived on the scene by consulting the village wise woman. This is true up to a point, however let’s remove our rose-colored spectacles for a moment and remind ourselves of how many people died of serious illnesses, blood loss and infections in the good old days. How many people, for example, would have died from diabetes mellitus if scientists hadn’t learned about insulin and its relationship with carbohydrates?

A good herbalist will always ask the patient if they’ve sought the advice of a MD for their complaint. If the answer is no, then they will seek to establish why not. Is it, for example, because the patient fears the diagnosis? If this is the case then the herbalist can listen to the patient’s concerns, reassure him/her and prescribe a gentle herb to alleviate anxiety. If the patient has already sought the advice of a doctor, then the wise herbalist will ask what action the doctor has taken. This is an extremely important question because some herbs can interact dangerously with some prescription drugs. It’s not by accident that some plants are referred to as ‘power plants’.

The vast majority of herbs, though, are gentle in their actions. Use them carefully to prevent disease, detoxify the body and bolster immunity. Stock your medicine cabinet with herbs that can treat your ailments and soothe you. Grow them in your garden, or in pots, and tend them lovingly. They will reward you by producing wonderful fragrances and saving you money. Add them to a nutritious diet, cutting out processed foods whenever possible. Go out into the countryside, or the garden, whenever you can.

If you follow this advice you’ll find little real need to visit your doctor for prescriptions. If you do have a condition which persists and is bothering you, seek the advice of your doctor. Think of him as your ally. Don’t be embarrassed about telling him that you prefer herbal remedies to pharmaceuticals. Doctors do not so easily dismiss the remedies as old wives tales these days; in fact many have supplemented their orthodox medical training by taking courses in philosophy and natural healing techniques, thus becoming licensed holistic M.D.s. Others have become N.Ds (doctors of naturopathic medicine) and they are licensed to practice in a number of US states.

Your doctor should be supportive of your efforts to keep healthy by natural means. Doctors are aware of the unwanted effects of prescription medications and don’t wish to give them to their patients unnecessarily. There is a class of illnesses called ‘iatrogenic’ which any doctor worth his salt will avoid giving to his patients. Iatrogenic is derived from the Greek ‘iatros’, meaning ‘brought forth by a healer’. Illnesses caused by harmful interactions between prescription drugs fall into this category, as do those caused by adverse reactions to prescription drugs (allergic reactions). Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is also classed as an iatrogenic disorder, because it’s linked to their over-prescription.

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