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What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal medicine is the oldest form of healing used throughout ­the world, and today it is the most widely used form of natural medication and is used to treat disease and enhance wellbeing. Herbalism is a natural healing system using a vast array of plants and plant extracts, taken orally or applied externally.


Traditionally, information about herbal medicine was passed down orally from generation to generation and then later recorded by monks. Today herbal medicines are being increasingly validated by modern medical research and there is now a wealth of scientific information to support its use.


Modern herbalists are trained in medical science, and the philosophies, principles and practices of western herbal medicine. Herbal medicine is nearly always prescribed using a combination of herbs. This means that individual prescriptions can vary greatly and no two people will be given identical formulas. Registration and continuing education is mandatory for all herbalists in Australia.


Many modern pharmaceutical drugs are based on the synthesised versions of naturally occurring compounds found in plants. For instance, the heart drug digoxin was derived from the herb foxglove. Drugs that are used like this tend to have side effects but when the whole plant is used, those side effects are less likely to occur.


Herbal medicine aims to return the body to a state of natural balance, so that it can start healing itself. In acute conditions (for example, colds, flus and infections), some improvement in symptoms should be noted within hours to a day. Longstanding conditions (for example arthritis, skin problems and hormonal imbalances) respond very well to treatment with herbal medicine, with improvements usually being noted within four to six weeks.

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