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Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine, also referred as botanical medicine or phytomedicine, uses various remedies derived from plants and plant extracts to treat health disorders and maintain good health. Another term for this type of treatment is herbalism or phytotherapy. The scope of using herbal medicine extends to include plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for its medicinal purposes.

Herbal medicine has a long tradition of use outside of conventional medicine. It is becoming more mainstream as improvements in analysis and quality control along with advances in clinical research show the value of herbal medicine in the treatment and prevention of diseases. Using plants as medicine can provide advantages for treating many health conditions. The therapeutic activity of a plant is due to its complex chemical nature with different parts of the plant providing certain therapeutic effects.

Every culture has its own style of traditional medicine. All these have the use of medicinal plants in common. Different cultures may also use the same plants but differ in how it is used, or the part they use and the philosophy of their treatment approaches.

Plants had been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants. Indigenous cultures (Aboriginal, African and Native American) used herbs in their healing rituals, while others developed traditional medical systems (such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) in which herbal therapies were used. In the early 19th century, when chemical analysis first became available, scientists began to extract and modify the active ingredients from plants. Later, chemists began making their own version of plant compounds, and over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favour of drugs.

Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care. In Germany, about 600 – 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by some 70% of German physicians. In the last 20 years in the United States, public dissatisfaction with the cost of prescription medications, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to an increase in herbal medicine use.

Chinese herbal medicine is part of a larger healing system called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is one of the great herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC. Yet throughout its history it has continually developed in response to changing clinical conditions, and has been sustained by research into every aspect of its use. This process continues today with the development of modern medical diagnostic techniques and knowledge. Because of its systematic approach and clinical effectiveness it has for centuries had a very great influence on the theory and practice of medicine in the East, and more recently has grown rapidly in popularity in the West. It still forms a major part of the healthcare provision in China, and is provided in state hospitals alongside western medicine.

The theory behind traditional Chinese medicine is that the body is a dynamic energy system. The aim of Chinese traditional medicine is to maintain and/or restore harmony in the body and the balance of the two types of energy, Yin and Yang, using herbal medicine, traditional acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, tui na, massage, dietary therapy and exercises in breathing and movement and the practice of Qigong and Tai Chi. Some or several of these may be employed in the course of treatment.

Chinese herbal medicines may be prescribed in the form of powder, ointment, tincture, pills or tablets, freeze dried herbs (to make into a tea drink) depending on the type of herb and its intended use. Different herbs have different properties and can balance particular parts of the body. Prescribing a particular herb or concoction of herbs means the practitioner’s diagnosis has to take into account the state of the patient’s Yin and Yang, and the elements that are governing the affected organs.

When is herbal medicine used?

Disorders which may benefit from the use of herbal medicines include a wide range of minor ailments such as:

  • Upset stomachs
  • Common cold and influenza
  • Headaches
  • Sore muscles
  • Skin rashes, eczema and so forth
  • Constipation and diarrhoea
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Premenstrual syndrome and painful menstruation
  • Impotence and prostate disorders
  • Disorders associated with menopause
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluid retention

Other more serious conditions that respond well to herbal remedies are:

  • Digestive disorders such as Peptic Ulcers
  • Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid, Arthritic and Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic skin problems such as Eczema and Psoriasis
  • Bronchitis and other respiratory conditions
  • Hypertension
  • Allergies
  • Infertility and Gynaecological disorders
  • Anxiety, depression and stress

How is herbal medicine applied?

It is important to consult a clinically trained herbal medicine practitioner before taking herbal medicine.

The herbal medicine practitioner must take many factors into account when recommending herbs, including the health condition of the patient and the underlying causes of symptoms to ensure you are prescribed the correct herbal formula, right dosage and only herbs that do not adversely interact with other medications.

Herbal chinese medicine consultation consists of taking a case history, enquiring about the person’s health condition and wellbeing. It may include a physical examination, inspection of the eye and the tongue, palpating and percussing different parts of the body, the reading of the pulse.

Often, a combination of herbs may be used together because the combination is more effective and may have fewer side effects.

Recommendation and advice may also be given about diet and exercises, if changes to your lifestyle are recommended.

What are the benefits of using herbal medicine?

Herbs contain a large number of naturally occurring chemicals that have biological activity and compounds from plants that are used to produce reliable pharmaceutical drugs. Herbalism does however support holistic treatment, with prevention of disease being as important as the treatment of a particular illness.

Another benefit of choosing herbal medicine is that it is gentler, yet has proven effects. Therefore, a profound transformation in health can be achieved, without the danger of the inherent side effects which is common in drug-based medication.

One of the potential problems of modern medicine is the constant and unnecessary over-prescription of antibiotics which may lead to conditions not clearing up and the immune system being weakened. Generally, herbal medicine can often heal more efficiently and effectively by supporting the immune system and not damaging it.

Cruelty Free

The herbal medicine used at the Rosanna Traditional Chinese Medicine Centre is cruelty-free: We are totally against the use of any medicine which may cause any harm to animals, or endangered Species, and we do not use any products which have been tested on animals.