Why consult a Medical Herbalist

Many people know about the healing properties of herbs and how to use them for simple, self-limiting complaints.  Doctors, pharmacists, health food shop assistants, gardeners, amateur experts, avid readers and those who have undertaken short-term study all might have a basic understanding of herbs and their individual actions in the body.

Most people with some knowledge of herbs can tell you that Echinacea is good for helping the immune system deal with colds, that Elderflower is anti-catarrhal and therefore helps with hay fever, and that Garlic has a reputation for helping just about everything! It is pretty well known that Sage is used for sore throats, that Thyme tea helps coughs and that Chamomile is soothing to the digestive system.

I frequently run talks, walks and workshops to make sure participants know what herbs are safe to pick from the wild, grow in our gardens and use in the kitchen for simple, self-limiting complaints. I enjoy showing people how to make herbal bath salts, loose-leaf teas, healing ointments, and lovely syrups and decoctions such as elderberry and rosehip syrup to make sure they get lots of immune support throughout the winter months. With each event, I hope to inspire and teach safe ways to use herbal medicine.

So, why the need to see a Medical Herbalist?

I am all for people using ‘herbal first aid’ and trying simple infusions and kitchen home remedies to see if that might help – as long as it is done safely, using quality products. I might even suggest you try it before booking an appointment, as long as it is a minor health issue.

However, consulting a Medical Herbalist takes your wellbeing and healthcare to the next level, and herbal medicine really comes into its own for more complex, long-standing and challenging medical conditions.

What makes a qualified Medical Herbalist different? 

Even though a have a family background of herbalism, I also studied at university level, and have a Batchelor of Science degree in Herbal Medicine. As part of this degree, I undertook more than 500 hours supervised clinical training and I assess my patients not just medically, but also holistically.

A medical herbalist is able to diagnose, which reflects our level of training. However, as our approach to treatment is quite different, the diagnosis is not always central to us. It is important to explore how the person came to develop the illness in the first place, the reason why they became unwell. It is also vital to have the medical knowledge, because as primary health care professionals we need to be able to spot any danger signs of serious undiagnosed conditions and refer on where necessary.

What am I doing in my consultations?

Firstly I take your basic details, date of birth, address etc. Then I ask you to talk to me about what you would like help with. I will ask lots of questions about your condition and past medical history, current medication, diet, lifestyle and I assess the workings of your body. I am looking for signs that inform me how well the different organs and systems are working to see what has gone wrong, where and why, so I know which areas to support to reduce the risk of the problem recurring after treatment.

Throughout the entire consultation, I am considering what I might want to include in your prescription. I will definitely be including things to help your symptoms, so if your digestion needs calming I might use chamomile, or something more appropriate with similar properties. I may use sage if you are having hot flushes, or thyme if you have a persistent cough.

But, this is only part of the picture. I am building a unique recipe for each person.  With in-depth knowledge and experience of therapeutic dose and individual need, I ensure you get the strength and quantity of each herb that is most likely to be of therapeutic benefit for you. This will be different for each person.

Then there are the ‘restorative’ herbs or adaptogens, aimed at targeting the body systems that might be contributing to maintaining the symptoms; your adrenal glands might have been overworked, your liver may be sluggish, you may have been producing abnormal levels of hormones or your nervous system may have been under stress. Any number of things may have contributed to your condition. Whilst writing out your herbal prescription, I am taking into account your medical history, any contra-indications for existing medical conditions and medications you might take from your GP – this is all an important part of a Medical Herbalist’s training.

A fundamental part of being a Medical Herbalist is to be able to assess a person ‘constitutionally’ and identify which herbs may, or may not, be right for them.

Most herbalists consider constitution vitally important.  All patients are different, some feel the cold, others run too hot; some put on weight easily whilst others remain slim regardless of what they eat. Constitutional, or traditional prescribing takes account of these tendencies when deciding how to treat and it is vital to understand this when putting together a prescription.  It is when addressing constitutional tendencies that herbal medicine prescribed by a Medical Herbalist is at its most successful – meaning the right herbs are used for the right person.

Do get in touch to find out more or to book an appointment via kristine@thecraftyherbalist.org.uk or call 07821 774286.