Echinacea

FAQs.

  1. What can herbal medicine offer me?
  2. Is it safe just because it's natural?
  3. What if I think I've had a bad reaction?
  4. Can Herbal Medicine be used as First Aid?
  5. How long will herbal treatment take?
  6. What happens during a consultation with a Medical Herbalist?
  7. Should I tell my GP and specialists that I'm taking herbs?
  8. Can herbs and pharmaceutical drugs be used together?
  9. Can an herbalist use herbs to decrease the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs?
  10. Are herbs safe at high doses?

What can herbal medicine offer me?

Herbal medicines can be used for various problems from sleep, stress and mood disorders to digestive ailments, colds and flu.


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Is it safe just because it's natural?

The short answer is no. The fact that a substance is natural does not necessarily mean it is safe for you to take. Herbal remedies or herbal medicines are made up of plants, trees and fungi which can be poisonous to humans.

Herbal remedies are like medicines and as with any other medicine they are likely to have an affect on the body. Many pharmaceutical medicines have been developed or derive from herbs and plants because of their possible effects. Herbal remedies should be used with the same care and respect as pharmaceutical medicines.

The main things you need to be aware of if you are taking or plan to take natural or herbal remedies are:

  • herbal remedies are essentially medicines and may interact and cause problems with other medicines you are taking,
  • You may experience a bad reaction or side-effects as a result of taking an herbal remedy.

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What if I think I've had a bad reaction?

You need to contact me as soon as possible and stop taking the herbal medicines straight away.


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Can Herbal Medicine be used as First Aid?

Medicinal plants have always been used as natural first aid remedies from dock leaves for nettle stings to plantain to draw splinters.

Today, herbalists can still depend on their vast pharmacopoeia using very simple remedies to bring instant relief to many minor problems.


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How long will herbal treatment take?

The length of herbal treatment depends on many factors like how long you have had the condition, the severity of the condition, other medications you take and your overall state of health. Often, people can have had mild symptoms or a feeling that things just aren't right for some time before a health condition actually shows up in tests.

Herbs are most often gentle acting and may take longer to begin to achieve their desired effect on the body than pharmaceutical medicines. They are also less likely to cause unwanted side-effects.


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What happens during a consultation with a Medical Herbalist?

Your first consultation will usually take an hour or more as I find out about your current health complaint and takes a detailed medical history from you. Your medical history will include information on allergies, family history, diet and lifestyle. I may also check your pulse and blood pressure. I'll then discuss a programme of herbal treatment with you and go over how long I think the treatment may take, and the level of treatment required. These things will all vary depending on your condition. I may also discuss changes to your diet, exercise regime and lifestyle and agree goals with you. I will then make up an herbal prescription designed just for you and will dispense this with any instructions you may need.

A follow up consultation will usually take less time (typically around 30-45 minutes) to assess your progress and I may make changes to your herbal prescription if required.


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Should I tell my GP and specialists that I'm taking herbs?

It is very important that all healthcare providers responsible for your care are fully informed about the herbs and drugs you are taking, including over the counter products and food supplements. This is important in order to avoid possible herb/drug/supplement/food interactions. I am aware of the difficulties involved and will provide information on request and with your permission will liaise with any of your other healthcare providers.


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Can herbs and pharmaceutical drugs be used together?

Yes. There are many instances in which herbs and pharmaceutical drugs work well together. However in some situations there can be negative interactions. Some herbs, like St John's Wort, cannot be taken with certain other medicines. I am trained to know which herbs to use safely and will be able to advise on any situation.


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Can an herbalist use herbs to decrease the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs?

Yes. There are many cases in which herbs strengthen the body's response to prescription medications. For example, herbs can reduce the amount of NSAIDs taken for rheumatoid arthritis thus reducing the risk of side effects. Herbs such as Aloe vera may be used for patients on irradiation therapy to reduce their risk of throat ulceration, and Astragalus can help maintain a healthy white blood cell count.

Herbal medicine is an effective alternative for people who have allergic and other adverse reaction to drug treatment. Some people who have arthritis may develop chronic gastrointestinal problems from taking non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). There is a wide range of herbs that relieve pain but without causing damage to the digestive tract or interfering with the NSAID treatment.


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Are herbs safe at high doses?

Not always. An herb with a broad therapeutic range is safe. That means the difference between the dose that has a medicinal action and a dose that can give side effects is very large. Most herbs have an extremely broad therapeutic range. It is very difficult or even impossible to take a toxic dose of most herbs. Chamomile, for example, can be taken in small or large quantities with no adverse effects.

On the other hand, there are herbs that must be used with caution because their therapeutic range is narrow. For example, Lily of the Valley affects the heart in a similar way to Foxglove which is poisonous. Only a little Lily of the Valley is needed to have a beneficial effect, too much would be toxic so it is important to make sure an accurate dose is taken. A more common example of this is coffee - which can make us feel jittery and anxious if we drink too much.


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