Herbal medicine is a branch of natural medicine similar to naturopathy. We primarily use herbs and food as our medicines, along with lifestyle suggestions to improve overall wellness.
The holistic model I learnt is about treating the whole person, the underlying cause, and the symptoms. Modern medical treatments generally focus on treating symptoms of the isolated part of the body that’s affected rather than treating the person as a whole. What does the holistic model mean?
The Whole Person:
· Age and stage of life
· General constitution
· ‘Soul needs’ – what a person needs to feel ‘whole’
· Areas of stress
· Friends/family/community – do they have a good support network?
· Upbringing/past life/karma – attitudes, patterns of thought and behaviour
· Trauma or injury
· Pathogenic (infection) – bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, anthelmintic
· Lifestyle – smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep pattern, exercise (too much/too little), overwork, poor eating habits or patterns
· Nutritional status – quality, quantity, macro- and micro nutrient balance and intake (carbs, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals)
· Immune status – allergy, chronic or recurrent infection, autoimmune disorders, cancer
· Tissue integrity and organ function
· Autonomic nervous system balance – sympathetic/parasympathetic
· Digestive disturbances e.g. bloating
· Heavy periods
· Recurrent infection
· Hot flushes
· Sugar cravings
· Skin rashes etc.
When I see a client, I get to know a bit about them as a person first before launching into their health issues. I gather a lot of information about past and present health to find clues as to the underlying cause of their symptoms. I’m trying to find common denominators – how the symptoms are related and what’s going on underneath.
Just as the cause of ‘unwellness’ is multifaceted, treatment to create wellness is also multifaceted. I offer suggestions for lifestyle modifications, food and nutritional advice to correct deficiencies or improve balance, and I mix up herbal medicines that assist with treating the underlying causes and symptoms, trying to get as much overlap with the herbs to cover all the bases. I have about 150 different herbs in my dispensary, and the art for me is to use as few herbs as possible with the most specific range of actions for each client.
I’ve heard the phrase ‘there’s nothing they can do’ many times from clients who’ve been led to believe they just need to put up with their health condition. This phrase essentially means that there’s no pill or surgery that will cure their particular diagnosed condition. Having been in practice as a medical herbalist for 17 years, I’ve seen many ‘miracles’ of illnesses or symptoms cured that have mystified the medical practitioners. I’ve helped clients who’ve been diagnosed with ‘terminal’ lung cancer, meningococcal septicaemia, antibiotic resistant pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic conditions to recover fully. I’ve helped clients overcome depression, recover from adrenal exhaustion (burnout), move on from broken relationships or toxic work environments and become healthy and happy again. There’s no ‘pill’ for treating these conditions, but having the skills and understanding of how to work with the ‘whole person, the underlying cause and the symptoms’ provides a good framework for improving one’s health no matter what title is given to the illness or disease.