Western Herbal Medicine
Western Herbal Medicine
Western Herbal Medicine (WHM) involves using plants and medicines derived from plant parts (including flowers, leaves, bark, roots, fruits and seeds) to aid healing and promote good health.
Contrary to the name, western herbal medicine incorporates plants from not only Europe and the Americas but also the Asia-Pacific, Middle-East and Africa. In fact, many herbs used in Western Herbal Medicine are actually from China (e.g. Dong quai, rehmannia and paeonia).
It is the method of understanding and prescribing the herbs that differentiates Western Herbal Medicine. Herbs are considered according to particular western actions, e.g. adaptagens help in times of stress, anti-inflammatory herbs reduce inflammation and anti-spasmodic herbs relieve cramping. Each herb is also assessed for its chemical constituents e.g. hyperforin in St John’s Wort contributes to its herbal anti-depressant activity.
There are thousands of herbs that may be used medicinally. Some western herbs you may have heard of before are: chamomile, rosemary, echinacea and St John’s Wort.
Western Herbal Medicine originated around the time of the Ancient Greeks and Hippocrates is considered to have used western herbal medicine in his treatments.
Who can take Western Herbal Medicine?
Western Herbal Medicine is an entire system of medicine and can be used as a primary medicine (e.g. to reduce symptoms of a common cold) or complementary medicine (e.g. to manage stress or digestive disorders alongside other conditions) depending on the condition to be treated.
Western herbal medicines can be taken as teas, in food, as lozenges, sprays, liquid extracts, tablets, capsules and applied topically in creams, oils and washes.
Frequently western herbs are prescribed in an individualised combination as a liquid formula to assist you with your particular health concerns. Usually a small amount (10mL or less) of herbal liquid is taken at a time which is quick and easy to do, allowing for good compliance. The beauty of this is that you can have a holistic herbal formula that is prescribed just for you and can be changed and adapted as your health condition changes.
Sometimes tablet formulations are also prescribed.
Herbal medicine may be taken by infants, the elderly and everyone in-between, although as they are medicines, herbs should always be prescribed by a practitioner to ensure safety for each individual.
Some herbs have interactions with medications or are contraindicated with some diseases. This will be discussed in your consultation to ensure your herbs are prescribed safely.
Is there an evidence base for Western Herbal Medicine?
Western Herbal Medicine is based on the traditional use of plant medicines over thousands of years. However, research into western herbal medicine is growing and producing significant results. A few examples are:
- The drug aspirin was developed from the herb willowbark. There are many other drugs that have also been developed from herbal medicines.
- Ginkgo biloba leaf was discovered by scientists in the 1960’s to improve cognitive function and memory, prior to this time only other parts of the plant had been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- In Australia recently, a water extract of Kava has been studied with good results in people with anxiety and insomnia.
- St John’s Wort has been the subject of extensive research as an anti-depressant in Europe, although it also has many other uses.
How do I know if my herbs are good enough quality to be medicinal?
We only use the best practitioner only suppliers of Western Herbal Medicine in our clinic. The herbs that we use are rigorously tested by the suppliers in raw material form and again throughout the production process to ensure that each herb is not substituted with another cheaper herb, that the herbs are good quality, do not contain unwanted toxins and do contain the active chemical constituents needed to have a therapeutic action.
How to make an appointment?
If you would like to include Western Herbal Medicine as an adjunct to your acupuncture consultation please advise our receptionist when booking your appointment.