What is herbal medicine and how can the benefits help me

Herbal medicine benefits

We spoke to Catherine Smith, Program Director of Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine, to explore the synergy between herbal medicine and naturopathy.

Discover how this centuries-old practice, which uses the healing properties of plants, thrives in the modern world, and delve deeper into the realm of naturopathy for a holistic approach to wellbeing.

What is Western Herbal Medicine?

Western Herbal Medicine is a traditional system of healthcare that uses plant medicine to improve health, prevent disease and treat illness. Much of its use in the Middle Ages was community-based and herbs were tied to diet and religion. One of the most influential herbalists was a nun named Hildegard von Bingen, who was also the first to be published. As time went on, the medical profession adopted the use of plant medicine, and some medications we use today are derived from plants. Western Herbal Medicine practitioners in Australia originally used herbs and prescribing methods from Britain and Europe.

Modern Western Herbal Medicine practitioners use herbs from around the world and have highly specialised, in-depth knowledge of how to select, combine and prescribe herbs for individual health needs. Herbal medicine is a core modality of Naturopathic practice.

How does herbal medicine work?

Healing plants have phytotherapeutic compounds that affect bodily functions. Herbalists learn about these biochemical properties and their physiological effects on the body. By understanding your health needs, the herbal practitioner has the skills to determine the correct herb or herbal combination to suit your constitution and health goals. Herbs may be prescribed as food as medicine, liquid, tablet, capsule, tea or topical form.

What conditions can herbal medicine treat?

Herbalists take a holistic approach to healing. This means that instead of working only to reduce the symptoms of the condition, herbalists aim to support accessory organs and systems that may be contributing to the cause of dysfunction.

A 2021 study on naturopathic community clinics, listed the most common reasons for consultation was to help manage digestion, stress, pain and arthritis, hormone balance, wellness and preventative care.

Herbs have traditional and research evidence to boost immunity; address allergies, improve cognition and focus, and support emotional wellbeing, energy and stamina.

Herbalists treat all age groups, from children and teens, to mid-life and seniors. Torrens University practitioners are trained to ensure your prescription is safe, even if you are taking medications.

What does a naturopathy and herbal medicine consult include?

Herbalists and Naturopaths have a long consultation method. The practitioner spends time listening to your health history and presenting complaint. A full case history includes family and health history, medical history, diet and social influences such as alcohol and smoking. If necessary, your practitioner may request an examination to assist with their understanding. This may include taking your blood pressure, and pulse and looking more closely at your skin, tongue, mouth, eyes, hands or nails.

Western Herbal Medicine graduates from Torrens University are trained to work collaboratively with medical and allied health practitioners to ensure clients receive timely diagnosis and optimal health care.

What are the benefits of herbal medicine?

Herbal therapy prescribed by a professional may help prevent the development of chronic disease. For wellness, we recommend at least 3 consultations per year. Our goal is to work with clients on strategies for wellness that are gentle, non-toxic and supportive of your health. If you have a diagnosed condition, naturopaths and herbalists (as traditional and complementary therapists) have a goal of supporting and educating you to maintain your health and feel your best. In this instance, you may be recommended to have more frequent visits to ensure the best care and optimal health outcomes.

Free naturopathy consultation

Our students in The Practice Wellbeing Centre, under the tutelage of their academics, leverage their expertise in human biology and physiology. We offer patients invaluable dietary and lifestyle advice, fostering a holistic approach to healthcare. To learn more about naturopathy and herbal medicine, visit our student-led clinic.

Find out more about the Practice Wellbeing Centres
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