Our team of herbalists are highly qualified and work as an interactive team, exchanging views and developing knowledge about appropriate aspects of their work. This helps to ensure a dynamic and well-informed approach to your treatment. Every member of the team is a member of either the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) or of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy (CPP). Both of these bodies are accountable to the European Herbal Practitioners Association.
Medical herbalists use the same diagnostic processes as those in orthodox medicine but take a more holistic approach, aiming for a total healing of the person from the root level rather than simply treating individual symptoms.
What is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal medicine, not to be confused with homeopathy, has been used for over 4,000 years and is the forefather of orthodox medicine as we know it today. The main difference is that, where orthodox medicine chemically reconstructs single elements within a plant, herbalists continue to adhere to the philosophy that the synergy of the whole plant is more effective than any one isolated constituent. Herbal medicines rarely produce the kind of unwanted side effects that can be caused by orthodox medicines and in most cases can work alongside orthodox medicines in a supportive role.
The Herbalist’s Approach
Medical Herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic skills as orthodox doctors but take a more holistic approach to illness. The underlying cause of the problem is sought and, once identified, it is this which is treated, rather than the symptoms alone. The reason for this is that treatment or suppression of symptoms will not rid the body of the disease itself. Herbalists use their remedies to restore the balance of the body thus enabling it to mobilise its own healing powers.
From the first consultation a treatment plan will be worked out between practitioner and patient. This will involve the use of herbs but also dietary and lifestyle changes may be employed. The plan may be a structured approach looking at perhaps one central aspect of your health problems first and with an agreement to tackle other aspects when the main problem is under control. The decisions of how to approach the path back to good health can only be worked out with an in depth consultation and understanding of how you have arrived at this point with your health. Our understanding of health and illness is looking at how we adapt to our physical, mental and emotional environment in positive and negative ways. Our coping strategies will create a variety of symptoms. Our job as herbalists is to find the easiest route forwards not only to be free of symptoms but to be in better control of our health through understanding ourselves.
The first consultation will generally take at least an hour. The Herbalist will take notes on the patient’s medical history and begin to build a picture of the person as a whole being. Healing is a matter of teamwork with patient, practitioner and the prescribed treatment all working together to restore the body to health.
The second appointment may follow in two weeks, subsequent ones occurring monthly – this will depend on the individual herbalist, the patient and the illness concerned.
Herbalists use a wide range of plant based materials for internal and external use. Preparations such as tinctures, fluid extracts, syrups, capsules and creams are all produced to a very high standard.
How do herbs work?
People have always relied on plants for food to nourish and sustain the body. Herbal medicine can be seen in the same way.
Plants with a particular affinity for certain organs or systems of the body are used to ‘feed’ and restore to health those parts which have become weakened. As the body is strengthened so is its power and ability to fight off disease and when balance and harmony are restored, health will be regained.
What are the differences between herbs and pharmaceutical drugs?
Many of the pharmaceutical drugs used today are based on plant constituents and, even now, when scientists are seeking new ‘cures’ for disease it is to the plant world that they turn. They find, extract and then synthesise in the laboratory a single active constituent from the plant (the active constituent is the part of the plant that has a therapeutic value), this can then be manufactured on a large scale.
Herbal drugs, however, are extracts from a part of the whole plant (e.g. leaves, roots, berries etc.) and contain hundreds, perhaps thousands of plant constituents.
Herbalists believe that the active constituents are balanced within the plant and are made more (or less) powerful by the numerous other substances present.
For example, the herb Ephedra sinica is the source of the alkaloid ephedrine which is used, in orthodox medicine, to treat asthma and nasal congestion but it has the side effect of raising blood pressure.
Within the whole plant are six other alkaloids one of which prevents a rise in blood pressure. Synthetic diuretics (drugs that increase the flow of urine) seriously reduce the potassium level in the body, this has to be restored using potassium supplements. The Herbalist uses dandelion leaves which are a potent diuretic but contain potassium to replace naturally that which is lost.
What can Herbal Medicine treat?
Herbal medicine can treat almost any condition that patients might take to their doctor. Common complaints seen by herbalists include skin problems such as psoriasis, acne and eczema, digestive disorders such as peptic ulcers, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. Problems involving the heart and circulation like angina, high blood pressure, varicose veins, varicose ulcers etc. can also be treated successfully as can gynaecological disorders like premenstrual syndrome and menopausal problems, also conditions such as arthritis, insomnia, stress, migraine and headaches, tonsillitis, influenza and allergic responses like hayfever and asthma.
Herbal medicine offers a safe, gentle and effective approach to health care and serves to promote health as a positive state. It is suitable for all from the very young to the very old.
Qualified herbalists know when a condition is best seen by a doctor or another therapist.
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists is the UK’s leading professional organisation of practitioners of herbal medicine.
The Institute was established (as the National Association of Medical Herbalists) in 1864 by a group of herbalists from the north of England. British herbal heritage at the time was being greatly influenced by the Americans who introduced many native North American plants into the British Materia Medica, thus incorporating several centuries of native American tradition along with some “modern” ideas.
These were particularly dynamic times, with great changes occurring within the herbal movement and great pressures from without to stifle herbal medicine itself.
And history is littered with similar examples.
Herbalists, however, have always fought to retain their knowledge and tradition, along with the right to practise, and have at all times sought to improve their art, encompassing new herbs and new ideas as their effectiveness has been revealed. Thus, over the ages, herbal medicine has not only survived but evolved with many exotic plants and spices becoming standard remedies.
This same philosophy prevails today and Institute members are dedicated to the study, research and practice of herbal medicine. Herbs and herbal therapeutic systems from around the world and across the ages are constantly analysed, discussed and reported, providing a rich and varied cornucopia of knowledge from which to seek inspiration.
The Institute maintains high standards of practice and patient care, and works to promote the benefits of herbal medicine. It is responsible for publication of the European Journal of Herbal Medicine.
On the political front, the Institute works within the European Herbal Practitioners Association – a body formed in 1993 to speak up for Herbal Medicine in a legislative climate taking on an increasingly European dimension.
All members of the Institute are governed by a comprehensive Code of Ethics and disciplinary procedure and are covered by full professional insurance.
Herbalists are able to treat a wide range of conditions both acute and chronic in nature.
Herbalists are trained to take into account health, any medication which is being prescribed and if necessary will know when to refer an individual to a doctor or other professional. Herbal medicine is not exclusive of orthodox medicine, indeed some practitioners are working alongside doctors in a multi-disciplinary setting.
It is important to clarify that herbalists do not simply dispense remedies. Indeed many over the counter remedies may be inappropriate. Herbalists are trained to identify the underlying cause of disease and thus will treat each PERSON (not health problem) very specifically. A course of treatment may involve specific dietary advice, helping the individual to develop healthy lifestyle skills (e.g. stress management) in addition to an individually designed prescription. Thus herbalists, in treating symptoms, aim to rebalance and strengthen the system overall.
National Institute of Medical Herbalists
Telephone: 01392 426022
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists is committed to promoting and maintaining high standards of education and training for its members
Training to become a Herbalist
Prospective members of the NIMH are expected to follow a programme of academic study (normally 3 – 5 years’ duration) and to complete a minimum of 500 hours of clinical training.
The NIMH is a professional body and as such is not directly responsible for the academic training of its future members. The NIMH Accreditation Board, made up of NIMH members and independent people involved in Higher Education or the health professions, accredits courses so that their graduates are eligible for NIMH membership.
Schools and Universities offering courses in Herbal Medicine must apply to the Board and pass through the accreditation procedure to enable their graduates to become practising members of the NIMH.
Each course must reach the minimum standards as set out in the Accreditation Board’s guidelines.
Core subjects studied include: anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, botany, materia medica, communication skills, complementary medicine, as well as nutritional and herbal therapeutics. Critical skills and research methodology are also required. Clinical practice is supervised by experienced practitioners and is most often undertaken in one of the Institute’s Training Clinics.
Post Graduate Training
New members enter a three year scheme involving post graduate training, a mentor scheme and self audit training overseen by the Post Graduate Training Board.
Other members are invited to a wide variety of post graduate seminars and we are currently implementing a formalised post graduate development scheme.
Herbal Medicine – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal Medicine is the use of plant remedies in the treatment of disease. It is the oldest known form of medicine.
Our ancestors, by trial and error, found the most effective local plants to heal their illnesses. Now, with the advancement of science enabling us to identify the chemical constituents within these plants, we can better understand their healing powers.
Herbalism, in this country is now classed as an “alternative” or “complementary” discipline but it is still the most widely practised form of medicine worldwide with over 80% of the world’s population relying on herbs for health.
Our team of Herbalists