Herbal medicine is the therapeutic use of plant preparations to prevent disease, enhance health and alleviate suffering.

Herbal medicine, also known as ‘plant medicine’ or ‘phyto-medicine’, is the traditional medicine of all cultures and remains the most widely used system of medicine in the world today.

Herbal medicine expertise is grounded in empirical knowledge that has been transferred over generations. This centuries old knowledge is now validated by evidence-based standards, with modern science confirming that medicinal plants help to reduce stress, improve sleep, enhance stamina, and aid digestion, immunity and detoxification. According to a World Health Organisation paper, in developing countries, 70-95% of people still rely on traditional medicine as their primary form of health care1

In New Zealand, plant medicine was taught at medical schools well into the middle of the 20th century. Prior to the recent advent of synthetic drugs in the late 19th century, physicians used safe and effective plant medicines to heal their patients. It is encouraging, then, to see that there is a renaissance happening in medicine where plant medicines are coming back into mainstream use.

Modern herbal medicine

Herbal medicine as practiced today is a blend of traditional herbal knowledge and modern medical science. With the best of both worlds, patients can benefit from the combined knowledge and wisdom of both these approaches by visiting a medical herbalist.

Medicinal plants contain nourishing nutrients (naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, trace elements), as well as unique phytochemicals that effectively rebalance and strengthen human physiology. They are quite different from modern vitamin pills, as these cover a nutritional gap but don’t have the additional deeper and long-term benefits that herbs have.

What does a medical herbalist do?

A medical herbalist work closely with you to alleviate your symptoms as well as correct underlying physiological imbalances, such as stress-related issues, fatigue, immune deficiencies, insomnia, digestive and reproductive problems. Many health issues can be addressed naturally and early on so that they don’t get out of hand. Practitioners will primarily use medicinal herbs, sometimes adding nutritional supplements. As part of the treatment plan, your practitioner may also suggest lifestyle choices that support optimum health.

To learn more about what medical herbalists do, please visit our What is a Medical Herbalist? page.

1 World Health Organisation, The World Medicines Situation 2011 - Traditional Medicines: Global Situation, Issues and Challenges, Geneva, 2011, www.digicollection.org/hss/documents/s18063en/s18063en.pdf (accessed 18 May 2021).

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