How does it work?
Herbal remedies are made from plant materials- either their scent, flavour or for other therapeutic properties. They come in the form of tablets, capsules, powder, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants.
In fact, some conventional medicines originate from a single active ingredient in a plant- for example, aspirin comes from the bark of willow trees. Savvy scientists then separate this ingredient and produce it on a much larger scale in laboratories. Herbalists believe that within a plant, all elements are in balance and so it’s important to keep them all together.
Among the more well know herbal remedies are St John’s Wort (which can be used to treat depression) and Echinacea (which may be useful in treating the early stages of a cold in adults) – these are just two of many, many different remedies that herbal medicine provides. The majority of herbal remedies are available to buy in health food shops, supermarkets and pharmacies, so there’s no excuse for calling into work with just a few sniffles!
When it comes to more serious health problems, some people see a trained herbal practitioner or herbalist. Many work alongside private practice doctors, so ask your GP if they are able to refer you. Herbal practitioners will give you a detailed consultation asking all sorts of questions about your medical history, diet and lifestyle. They may even examine you too – depending on the nature of your illness. You can also have follow up appointments every two to three weeks to check on your progress.
Scientific evidence for the benefits of herbal remedies is often variable and conflicting, finding that they tend to improve symptoms but generally failing to prove that they outright cure the illness.
Is it for me?
To ensure that herbal products are used safely, always consult your doctor beforehand as they can interact with other medicines and never take a bigger dose than the recommended amount on the label. They are not to be used when pregnant or breastfeeding, and be especially cautious if you have heart disease, epilepsy or type 1 diabetes. If in doubt, dial and ask the doc!
Good to know
The seeds from the herbal plant fennel are today used to treat indigestion and nausea, but in Ancient Greek times, they were thought to possess the power to make you thin. During medieval times, churchgoers carried fennel seeds to help them when they had to sit through a less-than-desirable (fire and brimstone-style) sermon. They chewed the seeds to relieve the rumbling of their uneasy stomachs!