Charlotte Willis and herbalist Nadine Hickman guide us through an introduction to herbal medicine, showing how you can grow and brew your way to better health – broomstick not included!
Herbal medicine has come a long way since the days when you may have found yourself being plunged into the nearest lake head-first, being accused of plant-based healing sorcery! Now, based on traditional practice alongside permitted and proven scientific backing, herbal medicine is making a comeback, with many of us becoming intrigued by a more natural remedy for common ailments. By utilising chemical compounds found naturally occurring in plants and algae, the healing possibilities are endless. Benefits range from hormone balancing and aiding of mental clarity, to pain relief and digestive transit…
The Herbal History
Despite its often hit-and-miss reputation, one of the most traditional and historical methods for healing the body’s physical and mental ailments comes from using herbal medicine.
Dating back centuries, originating in countries such as India and China, plants have long been grown and utilised specifically for human medicinal benefit, and are still in use today across multiple cultures worldwide.
In fact, it is estimated that there are around 120 common, modern-day prescription drugs emerging from plant-based sources. Aspirin, for example, was originally derived from two primary herbal sources; meadowsweet and willow bark, before being man-made by the pharmaceutical industry to create the pain-relieving product that we are all familiar with today.
The Root of the Symptom
Herbalism looks at an individual’s health in a more holistic manner when compared to modern medicinal practice. Rather than just simply treating the individual ailment or symptom that you may be experiencing, herbal medicine aims to synchronise with your body to heal and replenish you as a whole being. One of the most prominent and important pillars of herbal medicine is to treat each patient as an individual.
The philosophy of herbal medicine is to take care of any underlying causes of illness and irregular health, going deeper to establish the root cause of symptomatic conditions, with an emphasis on balance and holism.
In doing so, both the physical and mental well-being are taken into consideration when treating a patient, rather than using a ‘one pill to cure all’ approach that is all too commonplace in modern medicine.
Herbal Science – Far from your average Hippie
Herbal medicine may conjure up various mixed or negative images in your mind, and this is one of the main issues when it comes to the public’s willingness to try it out.
Despite these stigmas and misconceptions, there are both established and growing areas of scientific research, which highlight the permitted and proven health claims associated with various herbal medicinal products. From as early as 1970, herbal medicinal products were required to have an official product license.
Further legislation from the European Community Review Of Medicines in 1980-1990 requires products to be routinely safety, efficacy and quality tested. In 2004, a new European Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) meant that all herbal medicines must demonstrate a history of bibliographic or expert evidence for more than 30 years of traditional use to receive a coveted THR logo on the packaging. Any plant-based medicines used for common prescriptions will have been scientifically and clinically trialled to ensure product quality and safety.
Turning over your new leaf
Like many new hobbies or alternative therapies, beginning to look into using herbal medicine to help heal yourself can indeed be confusing and intimidating at first.
The best way to begin is by looking at your symptoms just as you would when going to a traditional GP. Herbalism is like filling in the blanks: firstly establish your symptom, such as a headache. Then you can begin to look at why you may feel this way, such as tension and stress at work or a change in life circumstance. By taking into account not only how you feel, but also why you may be feeling this way, you’ll gain a more true insight into your condition as a whole. In turn, this will help you to change your lifestyle and gain a better sense of perspective, rather than masking the issue.
Now, popping a couple of paracetamol may be a simpler solution, but herbalism works to help prevent the symptoms from re-emerging and will undoubtedly be most beneficial to long-term health.
Your body is an incredible and complex thing. It fights for you every day to keep you alive, upright and alert. So, now’s the time out to really listen, appreciate and heal it fully and naturally.
If you are thinking of embracing herbal medicine or simply considering using one of the products listed above, there is a variety of advice available. The British Herbal Medicine Association lists a number of registered herbalist companies whom can provide products that you can guarantee to be safe and reliable. The National Institute of Medical Herbalists can direct you towards a local herbalist who will be able to guide you through any questions or diagnoses that you may have. It is always best to buy registered herbal products.
Are you feeling inspired to try a new and alternative way to help balance your body and improve your own health? One of the simplest ways to introduce yourself to herbalism is by brewing your own teas.
Once you’ve established your body’s needs, you can begin to experiment with different combinations of herbs, ranging from locally grown to globally sourced. A general guide is to use three to four different herbs in each batch.
To brew, use a tea infuser, and infuse with a temperature of water just below boiling point to preserve the natural healing chemicals found in each herb. Try the recipes above, then make a note of how these teas work for you, and alter the quantities or ingredients accordingly, to suit your body’s individual needs and likes.
Nadine’s Kitchen Recipes
Nadine Hickman is an inspiring, modern-day herbalist and natural remedy enthusiast. Having been enthused by her nan’s approach to always use “something different” to heal the body in her childhood, Nadine has since had more than 20 years of experience in both recommending and working with herbal medicine to help relieve and prevent symptoms. She believes that there is a reason behind every symptom and that prevention is the best form of cure. Exclusively for Vegan Food & Living, Nadine has kindly shared with us some of her favourite and most popular herbal teas that she creates for herself and her own clients. Each recipe will make around 10 batches of tea. Combine the herbs in a tea infuser and infuse in water just below boiling point.
Soothing Bedtime Tea
Use 1-3 tsp of dried herbs per cup and drink 30 minutes before bed.
- 20g (1oz) passion flower
- 60g (2oz) valerian
- 20g (1oz) lemon balm
- 15g (½oz) lavender
Use 3tsp of dried herbs per cup and drink twice a day.
- 60g (2oz) rosehips
- 20g (1oz) raspberry Leaves
- 10g (¼oz) red clover
Use 1-3tsp of dried herbs per cup and ideally drink first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
- 60g (2oz) marigold
- 15g (½oz) oregano
- a handful of basil
- juice of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp cinnamon leaf
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