Herbal Medicine – a doorway into a sacred world

    This is my response to a reader query: ‘Can herbs really help in healing specific conditions, or do they just have a feel-good effect?’

    I am passionate about herbs, the various extraction methods and their medicinal properties. How wonderful it must be to go to work and walk around in nature, identifying and collecting herbs! Herbalism for some people – the herb itself or the cup of tea – becomes a doorway into a sacred world, a path to healing.

    Some people have studied, researched and identified the precious substances within plants, making it possible to determine the best time to harvest and which part should be used (or the whole pant) for which ailment – leaf, flower, fruit or root. It is also possible to determine the most favourable conditions for cultivation, the best growing areas, the best soil and climate, and what to do so no fertilisers are used.

    Herbs can be used in teas, for cooking and in a bath; as an extract in skincare products, creams, lotions, shampoos, sprays and toothpaste, as tinctures, juice or oils. They have a remarkable history, when properly used, of increasing the healing power of the human body and maintaining good health. Most herbs in their natural state are safe and do not leave a residue in the body that produces negative side effects.


    We are so conditioned by society to believe that conventional drugs are the best answer for most illnesses. This approach, however, may leave many feeling rather powerless in the face of modern medicine – as though we have little or no control over the healing of our own bodies. But there is another medicinal route which we are free to follow and which is becoming more frequently trodden: the herbal pathway to health.

    Herbal medicines are not drugs as they are not one specific chemical (as most conventional drugs are). They contain a multitude of constituents, meaning that the potency of different batches can vary. In general they are not as strong as conventional drugs. Always ask for standardised herbal extracts when buying herbal supplements. This will ensure that the same amount of the herb is found in every dose you take.

    Herbal remedies are generally well-tolerated, less sedating (do not make you as tired) with few side effects and not addictive. Many herbal preparations can help with short- or long-term health issues.


    Herbs generally fit into a number of categories depending on what you are using them for.

    Some common categories include:

    • Acute: for treating a current condition
    • Tonic: taken for long-term health problems
    • Anodyne: for general pain relief
    • Anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation which may reduce pain
    • Nervine: long-term tonic for the nervous system
    • Sedative: reduces excitement and is calming and relaxing
    • Skeletal-muscle relaxants: help with voluntary muscle pain (such as back and joint pain)
    • Sleep aid: helps with falling or staying asleep Smooth-muscle relaxants: relieve smooth-muscle pain such as menstrual or digestive cramps

    The educated consumer has a choice. Herbs have been used by several cultures for several thousand years. That’s why I like to call it traditional and not alternative or complementary medicine.

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