Introduction of Herbal Medicine

By: Pharma Tips | Views: 5059 | Date: 04-Oct-2011

Herbal medicine is a clinical modality based upon using plant derived medicines as therapeutic tools.

Herbal medicine is a clinical modality based upon using plant derived medicines as therapeutic tools.

Unfortunately there is a common tendency today for information about medicinal herbs to be represented as information about herbal medicine. Of course, tools cannot be understood outside of the context of their use.
   

This confusion is especially common when physicians or allied healthcare professionals trained in mainstream biomedicine approach herbalism. For example, knowledge of herbal medicine may incorporate aspects pf the pharmacology of herbs, but knowing the pharmacology of herbal constituents can never lead to understanding herbal medicine. By analogy, this would be roughly equivalent to thinking that an understanding of needles enables an understanding of acupuncture.
   
In a nutshell, herbs are not drugs, and herbal medicine is not based upon the premises of mainstream biomedicine with its disease/pathology centred reductionist approach, its spurious claims to be founded on the phiosophical chimera of "evidence based" science, and its hardcore pimping on behalf of global pharmaceutical corporations.

Botanical medicine is an individual-centered therapeutic art, based upon an empirical understanding of the vital force and its inherent healing properties, and a deep passion and respect for the gifts of plant medicines. It does not separate the health of the individual from the health of the planet, the health of the body from the health of the mind, nor the health of the spirit from the health of the community. It acknowledges its ancestry in the wisdom of wise women, shamen and itinerant healers, as well as the great documented traditions of Chinese, Ayurvedic, Unani, Graeco-Roman, and the medicine of the First Nations of this land, even if while today its yoga unifies science with the sacred.
   
Health professionals interested in stepping outside of their box should download and read the Weiss essay discussed immediately below. (pdf file in download section), The essay on Food Medicine and Poison in the cancer section of this site also contains some overviews on the conceptual basis of herbal medicine.

R F Weiss, MD (1895-1992) often regarded as the father of modern phytotherapy, wrote the essay What is Herbal Medicine? for his fellow physicians which was translated into English as Chapter 1 of his book Herbal Medicine in the edition published by Beaconsfield Publishing, UK in 1988.

Weiss's essay addresses important questions about the nature of phytotherapy and details issues that he considers must be addressed by physicians and medical educators attempting to understand the field for the first time. Weiss could be called the first true exponent of "integrative medicine" and this piece is especially recommended for healthcare professionals seeking a balanced and thoughtful overview of the field that remains as fresh today as when it was written in 1960.

Unfortunately the first English edition of the book, now an acknowledged classic, went out of print and the new revised edition has cut the famous chapter. (See The Bookworm review Re-Weissing Weiss) We have therefore made available an Acrobat facsimile of the essay, which can be downloaded from the download section of this site. Recently however, partly due to pressure from the Herbal Bookworm, Thieme have since reprinted the original Weiss edition (see Herbal Bookworm pages review: Re-Weissing Weiss). Kudos to Thieme for their initiative.
   
The AHG is the primary professional organization for clinically trained herbalists in the United States, and is committed to excellence in botanical medicine and herbal education. AHG professional members pass stringent criteria of clinical competence and study at approved herbal courses in the US. The practice of herbal medicine as such is not licensed in the United States, so AHG members operate within a framework of informed consent, offering advice and information about the use of herbal medicines, rather than diagnosing and treating medical conditions. NIMH members resident and working in the USA are invariably professional AHG members, and licensed NDs with particular interest in botanical medicine often are AHG members as well. Other members are qualified through the accreditation systems of Chinese medicine to dispense Chinese herbs (LAc, OMD).

Qualifications and pseudo-qualifications:caveat emptor!

For historical reasons, herbal medicine in the USA is heterogenous,and lacks a coherent unified presence, which can confuse potential consumers or patients. Acronyms such as MH (medical herbalist), CH (clinical herbalist) or CCH (certified clinical herbalist) are sometimes used but these do not have any generally recognized status, nor do they imply any standard training or clinical experience. In the USA, professional accreditation of educational courses is still being developed for herbal medicine, and at present there is no sure way of knowing what these acronyms mean - unfortunately they include the good, the bad, and the ugly. You have been warned.

The ND acronym should also be scrutinized, since diploma mills sell ND degrees, and there are "ND" distance learning or part time courses of varying quality which do not resemble the full time training of naturopathic physicians at accredited colleges such as Bastyr University, the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, or the South West College of naturpathic Medicine.

Currently, professional AHG membership, or MNIMH/ MCPP (the well established UK professional credentials), or licensed Naturopathic Physicians (ND) are the only credentials that reliably guarantee professional level clinical training and qualification in western herbal medicine in the USA.

The web site of the AHG has a directory of professional members for visitors needing to locate a qualified herbalist in their area.
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