Western Herbal Medicine

Medical Herbalists make use of plants whose traditional uses are backed up by modern scientific research and clinical trials. A qualified medical herbalist has a BSc or equivalent in Herbal Medicine, has studied orthodox medicine as well as plant medicine and is trained in the same diagnostic skills as a GP. However, herbalists take a holistic approach to illness, treating the underlying cause of disease rather than just the symptoms. They are able to prescribe herbal remedies to be used alongside other medication and treatments and many patients are referred to a medical herbalist by their GP for treatment.

Traditional Western Herbal Medicine evolved from the Greeks who were strongly influenced by the Egyptians and Middle Eastern civilizations. Aristotle divided the natural world up into four basic qualities, hot, cold, damp, and dry. These qualities were then used in Greek medicine to diagnose the basic patterns of imbalance in the body and also to define the properties of plants and match them up to the patient. Galen, who was a Greek physician in the Roman Empire ca 130 A D was responsible for assimilating and reorganizing disparate medical theories and transforming them on the basis of an interrelated energetic context. This was further elaborated upon by Avicenna of Persia in the 11th century. For the next 1500 years Western herbal medicine was termed Galenical and extended its influence throughout Europe and into the New World. For a time it was superceded by the discoveries of chemical elements and compounds by 16th century chemists and finally the rationalist philosophy of the 18th century. However, herbal medicine came back into its own later to antidote the chemical poisonings which occurred commonly in medical practise.

Main principles

Unlike western healthcare professionals, medical herbalists believe that plants should be used in their full, original form and not synthesized to form chemical drugs. Medical herbalism, like traditional herbalism, aims to use the herb in its original form, rather than extracting its chemical properties. However, medical herbalism differs from its archaic predecessor, mainly because it incorporates modern scientific research and western healthcare standards as part of its practises.

Herbalists look to harness the full power of the plant by using it in its natural form, whether it be the root, leaf, flower, stem or any other part. According to the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, ‘to isolate one constituent from a complex living being is to perform a disservice to the wisdom of nature.’ They believe that by isolating a single chemical in a plant, one is essentially destroying its natural balance and weakening its healing strengths.


Medical herbalists can treat all general illnesses and syndromes in the same manner that a GP does except that their chosen prescription could be a herbal remedy over a medicine from Big Pharma and they may have a different means of administration of the herbs they use.


The National Institute of Medical Herbalists

Herbalists look to harness the full power of the plant by using it in its natural form, whether it be the root, leaf, flower, stem or any other part.