What is herbal medicine ?
Herbal medicine is the use of plant remedies in the treatment of disease and is the oldest form of
medicine. Herbalism is still the most widely practised form of medicine worldwide with over 80% of
the world's population relying on herbs for health.

What are the origins of herbal medicine ?
The first written herbal records date back well over  5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described
the use and actions of plants such as laurel, caraway and thyme. Chinese herbal medicine, Unani
and Ayurvedic medicine also have a very long history. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans also
used herbs medicinally. In ancient Greece in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. Hippocrates was already
recommending poppy to induce sleep and willow leaves to relieve pain and fever. Later in the 1st
century A.D. Dioscorides established the first collection of medicinal plants.

What can herbal medicine treat ?
Herbal medicine can treat almost any condition that patients might take to their doctor. Complaints
commonly treated include :

  • skin problems such as psoriasis, acne and eczema.
  • digestive complaints such as peptic ulcers, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and
    indigestion.
  • cardiovascular disorders such as high blood pressure and varicose veins.
  • gynaecological problems such as premenstrual syndrome and menopausal complaints.
  • other conditions include arthritis, insomnia, stress, migraine and headaches,
tonsillitis, influenza, hayfever and asthma.

How do herbs work?
herbs contain constituents which modify or complement the actions of other components, thus
potassium, which can replace that which is lost.
restore this. Dandelion leaves, a commonly used herb with a potent diuretic action, contain
potassium, which can replace that which is lost.

How do I recognise a qualified herbalist ?
The main professional bodies for Medical Herbalists are given below. all these organisations have
their own ethical codes and require members to take out full professional insurance.

  • National Institute of Medical Herbalists - This was founded in 1864 and is the oldest body of
    practising herbalists in existence today. All members have achieved the necessary standard of
    training for entrance into the Institute. They carry the letters of their qualification after their
    name, MNIMH or FNIMH.
  • Association of Master Herbalists - Members have MAMH after their names.
  • International Register of Consultant Herbalists and Homeopaths (IRCH) - Registered members,
    who have completed their course, can use the initials MIRCH.


About Herbal Medicine
Lachlan Cranswick  2006