Naturopathic botanical medicine has a long tradition. It is one of our favourite modalities. Early Naturopathic doctors used herbs alongside water, light and air to aid healing. They knew botanical medicine was safe because people had been using plants, or botanicals, as medicine for thousands of years.
How are Botanicals used as Medicine?
Each medicinal plant contains a mixture of compounds. Together, they produce that plant’s unique medicinal properties. Different plants, or herbs, can be taken alone or combined in teas, tinctures, or pills. They can be applied to the skin in creams, ointments, and poultices. They can be infused, steamed, or steeped in oil. Botanical medicines are verstatile, safe, and natural.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Sometimes, a single plant does a job so well, it can be used alone in almost anyone with a specific concern. Most of the time, however, botanicals work best when they’re personalized for you. This is one of the reasons Naturopaths ask so many questions. The more we know about your illness, the more specifically we can prescribe a herb, or a mixture of herbs, that will work for your unique set of symptoms.
Single herbs are often prescribed as pills or capsules that come pre-made. With herbs, quality matters, so your Naturopath will usually recommend a specific brand that she trusts. When a combination of herbs is desired, teas and tinctures are often used. This is because, unlike capsules, teas (loose herbs that are brewed in water) and tinctures (herbs that have been steeped in alcohol) can be mixed in any combination, in specific proportions. Although there are some very effective formulations that work well in a variety of people, individualized combinations do tend to work better, overall.
Naturopathic Botanical Medicine: A Safer Alternative to Drugs
Unlike drugs, which contain a single, man-made chemical, plants contain a balance of natural compounds. Used properly, they work with your body to promote healing and wellness. While botanical medicines do carry the risk of side effects, their safety record puts drugs to shame. Because these medicines have been used by generations before us, we know what to expect, and how to use them safely.
Of course, unexpected events, such as allergic reactions, can occur with botanicals. If you ever experience an unexpected side effect from a botanical medicine, stop taking the medicine and contact your Naturopath right away.
Is Botanical Medicine Right For You?
Botanicals do not work the same way as drugs. Because they are gentler, they often take longer to work, and their effects are more subtle. But if you want to avoid the harsh side effects of pharmaceuticals, botanicals are usually a good alternative.
Botanical medicine is best used short-term or occasionally for acute concerns. However, in some chronic cases it may be necessary long-term, and many herbs can be safely ingested on a daily basis. While some herbs are strong and must be carefully dosed, others, like chamomile, are gentle enough to be used by children and during pregnancy.
The following are only some of the conditions that may benefit from botanical medicine:
- Coughs, Colds, & Flus
- Poor Immunity
- Stress & Insomnia
- Anxiety & Depression
- Burnout & Fatigue
- Arthritis & Inflammatory Pain
- Bacterial, Viral, Fungal, & Parasitic Infections
- Skin Conditions
- Hormonal Imbalances