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In today's herbalism, sometimes known as Phytotherapy, plants from around the world are used to treat a wide variety of conditions. As a holistic medical approach, herbalism works to restore the body's vital force - its own self-healing capacity to protect, regulate, renew and heal itself on every level: physically, mentally and emotionally. In this way, it also works to prevent a condition recurring. Importantly, it is the person who is treated and not just the condition; symptoms are regarded as the body's attempt to maintain balance and harmony. Practitioners exercise their knowledge of herbal synergy which is based on using parts of whole plants which contain a complex mix of active ingredients for medicinal effect. Herbalism is said to be beneficial for most illnesses, respiratory and circulatory conditions, and others including depression and insomnia. It is believed that over 80% of the world's population turns to herbal remedies for health. Famously, echinacea is used to stimulate the immune system; garlic has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and fat levels, and St John's wort is effective for depression.
Practised for thousands of years, western herbalism forms the basis of many modern medicines, but it has reasserted itself as a treatment in its own right. The curative qualities of medicinal plants and flowers are rooted in the folklore of virtually every culture. Native European knowledge was enhanced by that of the Egyptians, Romans and Islamic cultures brought to the west by the Crusaders; this was later advanced by Paracelsus, the 16th century scientist, and Nicholas Culpeper. As science advanced, herbalism waned in Europe, only to flourish elsewhere. We can thank the Pilgrim Fathers, who augmented their knowledge with American Indian herblore. Herbal schools were established in the US and the popularity of modern western herbalism was revived in the UK in the 19th century.
What to Expect
As a holistic treatment, herbalism takes account of all aspects of your life and not just your presenting symptoms. And the diagnosis is extensive; it may surprise you to be asked about your attitudes to the environment, or about your childhood. In addition to discussing your health and lifestyle, a practitioner will usually take your pulse and listen to your lungs and heart. Having checked your body he or she will then prescribe herbal remedies to stimulate the appropriate system. The remedies themselves may be in one of a number of forms, including tablets, creams, poultices and tinctures. It is important that you advise the herbalist of any prescribed medicine you may be taking. Herbalism is not recommended for those with epilepsy and insulin-dependent diabetes.
Training & Colleges
Qualified practitioners will have taken a course ranging from four-years, full-time BSc (Hons) degree course in herbal medicine to a two year part time course.
The School of Phytotherapy
Bodle Street Green
East Sussex BN27 4RJ
tel:01323 833 812
There are a number of different bodies. Many have come under the umbrella of the recently formed
European Herbal Practitioners Association
Midsummer Cottage Clinic,
tel:01993 830 419
They are actively seeking statutory registrations for their members, in discussions with The Dept of Health.
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists
56 Longbrook Street
Devon EX4 6AH
British Herbal Medicine Association
PO Box 304
Dorset BH7 6JZ
Information above graciously provided by Holistics UK
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When you talk about illness and disease, scientists believe all chronic illnesses are accompanied by "nutritional deficiencies" and imbalances in the essential chemical elements that make up our bodies. Many think of nutritional deficiencies in terms of an inadequate diet and this is often the case. There are, however, other ways in which the body exhausts its valuable supply of chemical elements.
Excessive mental work, for example, can deplete the brain, nerves and glands. Stress can wreak havoc on our immune system. Sometimes we simply neglect our bodies or forget to get enough fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Bottom line, any abuse, neglect or overwork to our bodies can leave us with nutritional deficiencies. Once the body is depleted of needed chemical elements, the tissues begin to breakdown, weakening a particular organ, gland or tissue and disease ensues.
Symptoms of ill health may not express themselves for quite some time. Typically, the first symptom of disease to appear is fatigue. Next, we may get frequent infections, colds or the flu. Many times early symptoms we experience are taken for granted as a natural sign of aging. When left unchecked the underlying causes can grow and proliferate — creating chronic disease.
It’s helpful to remember that the appearance of symptoms, such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis, mark the clinical stage of a disease. However, when our skin becomes dry, when we have shoulder pain, or excessive bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, each tell us something is wrong—that healing needs to occur.
Over the past decade, the popularity of herbal medicine has exploded. Walk into any drugstore, supermarket or discount store and you can easily find herbal remedies on the shelves. Herbs are natural remedies derived from whole plants, their roots, leaves, stems or seeds. Herbs are available in a variety of forms, including fresh, dried, in tablets or capsules and even bottled in liquid form. You can buy them individually or in mixtures formulated for a specific condition.
Historically, the use of herbs to facilitate healing predates some of the earliest written documents known to man. These documents record dozens of medicinal plants, including myrrh, castor oil, garlic and their healing properties. Over the years, the curative properties of herbs and medicinal plants have not changed. Herbs that were used for healing thousands of years ago are still utilized by many herbalists today.
For those new to the world of herbal therapy, the most extraordinary and tantalizing thing about herbs are their proven action and incredible versatility. The actions of herbs are due in part to their active constituents. Active constituents are special chemicals and combination of chemicals and oils that are present in each particular plant that work together synergistically to give the plant its particular therapeutic value.
Therapeutically, the goal of herbal therapy is to help the body cleanse itself and heal naturally. In today’s society, we have become accustomed to magic bullets and instant fixes. Herbs don’t function that way. Herbs work to feed the body the nutrients it needs so our bodies can heal themselves. Herbs have three general functions in the body 1) they can be used to help the body eliminate or detoxify; 2) they can help the body "maintain" by counteracting physical symptoms, thus allowing the body to heal or 3) they can be used to help the body build or tone an organ.
When working with herbal remedies, some notice an improvement of symptoms within a few days. Chronic health problems, on the other hand, often take longer to resolve themselves. As a general rule, you should allow the body a minimum of three months to correct itself. Individuals suffering from long term chronic conditions should stay on their herbal program for an additional month for every year they have experienced their health concern. So for example, if you’re working on a problem you’ve had for two years, give your body three months plus an additional two months to correct itself. This is obviously just a guideline, but it does tend to put a bit of perspective into the use of herbs.
So while we have talked about using herbal therapies to help the body rebuild itself from chronic illnesses, herbs can also be used to address a number of minor health concerns that we may experience as part of our every day lives. For example, herbs can be used to reduce pain and inflammation. They can be used to kill the bacteria and viruses associated with the common cold or flu. They can be used to calm us down, speed us up and even spice up our sex life.
Around the world, there are hundreds of herbs and medicinal plants that are currently being used to improve health. If you have never worked with herbs before, it is best to start off with a few herbs, work with them for a while and then expand your repertoire over time. To help you get started, I have provided you with a number of herbs that can be used to meet many health conditions you may experience. This should get you well on your way to working with herbs and herbal remedies.
Aloe Vera — (Aloe Vera) Aloe Vera gel is considered one of the most effective healing agents for treatment of burns and injuries. It is also considered one of the best herbal laxatives available. Its soothing, cleansing properties help the body maintain healthy tissues.
Buchu — (Agathosma Betulina) Buchu is often used to treat inflammation of the urethra, blood in the urine, bladder infections and other chronic urinary tract disorders.
Cascara Sagrada — (Rhamnus purshiana) Cascara Sagrada is a popular treatment for chronic constipation because it is not habit-forming. It is used to increase the secretion of digestive fluids, create large soft bowel movements, and stimulate the peristaltic action of the colon.
Cloves — (Caryophyllus Aromatices) Clove oil is highly antiseptic and a time-honored remedy for toothaches. It is also used to stop vomiting. It also has a history of relieving indigestion, controlling diarrhea and healing cuts and bites.
Comfrey — (Symphytum officinale) Comfrey is often used when rapid wound or bone healing is required. It can be used both internally and externally in the healing of fractures, wounds, sores and ulcers. Its astringent properties make it useful for stopping hemorrhaging, whether from the stomach, lungs, bowels, kidneys or hemorrhoids.
Damiana — (Turnera aphrodisiaca) Damiana stimulates the production of the male hormone testosterone. Often used by women for hormone balancing, hot flashes, infertility and menopause. Damiana is used for both frigidity in women and impotence in men.
Dandelion — (Taraxacum officinale) Dandelion has helped serious liver conditions such as hepatitis, jaundice and cirrhosis by stimulating the liver and eliminating toxins from the blood. Dandelion has also helped strengthen the kidneys and is used in combinations for high blood pressure and water retention.
Dong Quai — (Angelica sinensis) Dong quai is considered the "female ginseng". Dong quai helps to regulate monthly periods, relieve menopausal hot flashes, eliminate cramps, as well as help a mother’s recovery after childbirth. Avoid using during early pregnancy.
Echinacea — (Echinacea purpurea) Echinacea’s traditional usage is as a topical agent to help the body repair skin wounds, and internally enhance the immune system and stimulate the activity of white blood cells, which destroy bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders.
Eyebright — (Euphrasia officinalis) Eyebright has anti-bacterial and astringent properties that make if useful for cleansing the eyes — both internally and externally as an eyewash. It can improve vision; relieve intra-ocular pressure and protect the optic nerve in early stages of glaucoma.
Fenugreek — (Trigonella foenum-graecum) Fenugreek is one of the oldest medicinal plants and is known for its ability to sooth inflamed tissues and improve mucus and lymph system flow. It can be taken for bronchitis or fevers and gargled for a sore throat.
Garlic — (Allium sativum) Garlic is one of the most important herbs; it has a broad range of well-documented healing properties. It fights bacteria, fungi and worms. It supports the circulatory system by fighting against blood clots. It also stimulates bile, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol and improves the bloods LDL/HDL ratio.
Ginger — (Zingiber officinale) Ginger stimulates the circulatory system. It acts directly on the stomach and liver to reduce nausea and vomiting and is more effective than Dramamine for motion sickness. Ginger can prevent the onset of migraine headaches, especially if they start with strong nausea or vertigo.
Golden Seal — (Hydrastis Canadensis) Goldenseal’s numerous uses are attributed to its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It soothes irritated mucus membranes aiding the eyes, ears, nose and throat and has been used to help reduce fevers, and relive congestion and excess mucus. Golden seal should be used with caution by hypoglycemic people because it is known to lower blood sugar levels.
Gotu Kola — (Centella asiatica) Gotu Kola is used for ailments of the nervous system. It builds circulation in the brain and lower limbs and is often used to help improve memory. Gotu Kola also exhibits antibiotic properties, where it helps to break down the cell walls of invaders so the body’s immune system works more effectively.
Licorice Root — (Glytcyrrhiza glabra) Licorice feeds and activates the adrenal glands for a higher, more even level of energy. Licorice helps destroy viruses and stimulate and clear the lymphatic system. It can also be used by hypoglycemics to improve blood sugar regulation.
Milk Thistle — (Silybum marianum) Milk Thistle is among the most ancient remedies used for liver complaints. It is used to improve liver function, protect against liver damage and enhance the regeneration of damaged liver cells and is often used in cases of cirrhosis, toxic liver and other chronic liver conditions.
Oregon Grape — (Berberis Aquifolium) Oregon grape is a powerful antibiotic that is best known as a lymphatic and liver-stimulating blood cleanser. It is particularly effective for skin diseases, which often occur when metabolic acids build up in the body. Oregon grape can be used as a substitute for golden seal.
Red Raspberry — (Rubus idaeus) Red Raspberry has a wide reputation as a female tonic for relieving excess menstrual bleeding. It strengthens and normalizes female organs. Pregnant women can use red raspberry throughout the entire term of pregnancy, where it is used to relieve nausea, prevent spotting, tone the uterus in preparation of childbirth and reduce false labor. It can also be used to lessen the pain and bleeding of child-birth and increase milk production.
Saw Palmetto — (Serenoa serrulata) Saw palmetto is an important glandular strengthening herb. In men, it is used for impotence, sterility, underdeveloped testicles and enlarged prostate. In women it is used for infertility, lack of stamina, ovarian dysfunction and underdeveloped breasts.
Scullcap — (Scutellaria lateriflora) Scullcap is a nervous system and muscle relaxant where there is excess excitement or uncontrolled movement. As an antispasmodic, it has a sedative action that contributes to formulas for asthma, seizures, menstrual cramping, and Parkinson’s disease.
Slippery Elm — (Ulmus fulva) Slippery elm bark is a contact healer that coats, soothes and heals irritated or inflamed tissues including hemorrhoids, ulcers, burns and sore throats. It is a mild bulk laxative that absorbs toxins from the bowel. Slippery elm and marshmallow root are very similar.
St. John’s Wort — (Hypericum persoratum) St. John’s wort is known for its soothing, anti-depressant properties. It is often used to help improve the irritable, stressed disposition of individuals trying to break their addiction to tobacco and alcohol. St. John’s Wort may cause photosensitization so be cautious of overexposure to sunshine. Persons taking anti-depressant prescription drugs should not take St. John’s Wort at the same time.
White Willow — (Salix alba) White Willow Bark is best known for its ability to alleviate pain and reduce fever and can be thought of as an aspirin pain substitute. White Willow Bark is also beneficial for infections, heartburn, cancer, and neuralgia.
Yarrow — (Achillea milleforlium) Yarrow has been used extensively to stop bleeding of all kinds. It can be used externally and internally for wounds, sores, rashes and piles. Yarrow encourages sweating which can reduce fevers and take pressure off the kidneys and help remove toxins from the body. Yarrow can produce darkened urine.
Before you run to the store and stock up on some herbs, it is important to realize herbs have powerful ingredients and must be used appropriately. Although herbal remedies are less likely than conventional medicine to cause side effects, herbs nevertheless can be very potent. With that said, here are some guiding principles for safe use of herbs.
Do your homework. Investigate the herb or herbal remedy before using it. Whatever type of product you choose, the quality of an herb or herbal preparation is only as good as the quality of the raw herb from which it was made. Personally, I recommend using well-established brands of herbal remedies. This can save you the time and energy of investigating products and often increases your chances of getting reliable ones.
It is best to initiate an herbal program slowly. Start with one product at a time and build to the desired amounts so you don’t overwhelm your body.
It is also important to mention that when working with herbs, you may experience a "healing crisis" as your problem begins to work its way out of your body. A healing crisis is often experienced as a temporary aggravation of symptoms that can flair-up for a few days. If the symptoms last longer than that, discontinue your herbal regimen and visit your primary care provider.
From a practical point of view, it is best to work on only one or two health problems at a time. Focus on the most important problem first. What you may find is that your other health issues go away by themselves as the original problem is eliminated.
Check with your primary care provider before starting an herbal therapy program. As with all complementary therapies, individuals who considering herbal therapy should consult with their doctor to avoid harmful interactions with any of their current medications.
Do not take an herbal remedy instead of the medicine prescribed by your doctor without discussing it with him/her first.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding it is even more important to investigate the action of specific herbs. There are a number of herbs that are contraindicated for pregnant or lactating women. If in doubt, it is best to just avoid them all together.
In addition to taking herbs to help restore your body, here are some additional tips to help you experience optimal health.
• Drink lots of pure water. Get plenty of high quality sleep.
• Exercise daily - take a walk, stretch or do yoga.
• Try eating a diet rich in natural foods. Cut down on white and refined sugars, white flour, dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, fats and foods with additives.
• Increase the amount of raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains and raw nuts in your diet.
Keep in mind, taking supplements is only part of the answer. At times emotional issues may inhibit our body’s ability to heal itself.
• Try to have a positive outlook on life.
• Find ways to relieve stress and release pent-up anger or resentment whenever possible.
• Become spiritually stronger! It has been scientifically proven that prayer or meditation have a positive effect on healing.
Most importantly, be patient. Don’t expect instant changes. Your body didn’t get that way overnight, so give it some time to heal. Building new cells and restoring the body’s valuable supply of chemical elements takes time and a commitment on your part to get better. Although there IS a point of no return in tissue damage caused by severe long-term deficiencies, it is surprising to see how well the body responds to herbal therapies. It has been found that by combining herbal therapies with dietary and lifestyle improvements, you can work toward the remission of symptoms and the reversal of the disease process naturally.
Dr. Rita Louise, Ph.D., is a Naturopathic Physician, a medical intuitive, mind/body healer, herbalist and spiritual counselor. She also authored the book "The Power Within A Psychic Healing Primer", For more information or to schedule a session call 972-475-3393 or visit www.soulhealer.com
HerbMed® - an interactive, electronic herbal database - provides hyperlinked access to the scientific data underlying the use of herbs for health. It is an impartial, evidence-based information resource provided by the nonprofit Alternative Medicine Foundation, Inc. This public site provides free access to 45 herbs (top 40 + controversial herbs). Alternative Medicine Foundation, Inc: HerbMed Database, www.herbmed.org
Jan, Keth and Dr Light use Herbs in their life and can share
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