Frequently Asked Questions

Medical Herbalism

What is herbalism?

Herbalism is the treatment of illness using plant-based medicine. Its written tradition can be traced back 5,000 years and the earliest evidence of its use some 60,000 years ago. The pharmaceutical industry would not exist without it as many modern drugs, such as aspirin, originated in plants. It frequently offers solutions where conventional medicine has failed.

What is a Medical Herbalist?

A medical herbalist is a health care professional who uses plant-based medicine to treat sickness and ill health. Their training involves the study of the biomedical sciences including microbiology, biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, pathology and pharmacognosy. The medical use of plants follows this grounding in science and includes knowledge about all parts of a herb, its life cycle, what part to use, the traditional knowledge associated with it and any scientific studies and research associated with it. Accompanying all this knowledge is clinical training during which examination and diagnostic skills are taught as well as the formulation and dispensing of herbal prescriptions.

Do Medical Herbalists follow a code of ethic and code of practice?

Yes, they most certainly do! All Medical Herbalists must abide by the professional codes for maintenance of professional membership to the National Institute of Medical Herbalists or the Irish Institute of Medical Herbalists.

What is the difference between a Medical Herbalist and a Naturopath or Homeopath?

Medical Herbalists are the Herbal Medicine experts. They are THE specialists in herbal medicine having had their years of training focusing on and specializing in herbal medicines. Naturopaths have studied several different healing modalities in the same time frame that Medical Herbalists have studied and focused on one modality, herbal medicines. Medical Herbalists are not dabblers in herbal medicine, rather they are the highest trained, thus experts, in the field. A Homeopath has studied homeopathic medicines that may or may not include herbs.

Herbs and Herbal Medicine

What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal Medicine, sometimes referred to as Herbalism, Phytotherapy or Botanical Medicine, is the use of herbs for their therapeutic or medicinal value. Many well-established medicines come from plants.

How do herbs work?

Plants generally have a specific affinity to a particular organ or tissue where they then aim to restore the normal function of these organs or tissues. However, much like most pharmaceutical drugs, the exact mechanisms are often not fully understood.

How long will it take for herbs to help?

There is no simple answer here and really it depends on the individual and illness. Generally speaking, the longer you have been sick the longer it will take to regain your health thus you could expect to see some improvement within 2 to 3 weeks but significant results usually within 2 to 3 months. It is also important to recognize that herbs are only a part of the therapeutic protocol attention to diet, exercise, lifestyle and so on are also usually essential and without this, the herbs cannot be expected to work to their full potential.

Do I have to stop taking medication from my doctor?

No, not typically as the herbs will not usually interfere with the prescription drugs. However, herbs may make it possible that you need to reduce the dosage of the medication as the herbs work and become more effective. Therefore, if you are currently on prescription medication, do not self-medicate with herbs, rather consult with a Medical Herbalist and your physician thus integrating herbal medicine into your therapeutic protocol.

Do I need my doctor’s permission to take herbs?

No, you are free to seek whatever health care wherever you wish. However, it is advisable that you let your doctor know so that he/she and the Medical Herbalist can work together.

What happens when I visit a Medical Herbalist?

An initial consultation usually takes 1 to 1 ½ for a full medical history and to perform any necessary physical assessments. Diet, lifestyle and herbal recommendations can then be given and discussed. In subsequent visits, the changes and are reviewed and remedies may be adjusted.

How much does it cost?

A 45-minute initial consult costs €75. A follow-up consult costs €50. An in-person consultation costs €75.

Health and Safety

Are herbal remedies safe?

When given under the supervision of a Medical Herbalist, the remedies are completely safe without side effects and no cumulative effects.

How do herbs differ from pharmaceutical drugs?

Herbal remedies differ from pharmaceutical drugs in that pharmaceuticals isolate only one property of the plant or are often chemically derived, and thus can cause undesirable side effects. Herbs are whole-plant remedies, unless stated otherwise, and rarely cause side effects due to the fact that herbs contain all of the properties of that particular plant or plant part thus synergism. If one property would cause side effects, the other properties present counteract the undesirable quality. Additionally, herbs tend to have a slower and gentler action on the body resulting in a slower but more steady and complete healing rather than the direct, harsh, and often incomplete action that drugs can exhibit.

Can I take herbs while I am pregnant?

Some herbal remedies have traditionally been used during pregnancy. However, some herbs have been known to not be safe during pregnancy as well. Be certain to consult a Medical Herbalist before taking any herbal remedies.

Can children and the elderly take herbs?

They most certainly can. However, because their bodies and systems react very differently than the average adult, it is advisable to consult a Medical Herbalist for more guidelines regarding dosing and types of herbs that are best suited for these individuals.

What kind of conditions can I take herbs for?

Herbs can be taken for all sorts of illnesses including both acute and chronic illnesses. Herbs can have both gentle as well as strong actions and will depend on the specific treatment needed for each condition. Consulting a Medical Herbalist will best determine what sort of herbs and actions are necessary for each individual.