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Western Herbal Medicine

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Western Herbal Medicine

Historical Overview

The use of herbs is one the oldest forms of medicine and can be traced to practices from over 5,000 years ago. The ancient Greeks, influenced by the Egyptian and Middle Eastern civilizations, are some of the earliest users of Western Herbal Medicine. It has also been influenced by the indigenous practices of the British Isles and ancient Roman traditions. Used by Hippocrates, Western Herbal Medicine has impacted the modern day development of pharmaceutical drugs which include plant ingredients.

Herbs are parts of plants, like bark, flowers, roots and leaves used medically. In Western Herbal Medicine, herbs are used for their therapeutic value to promote health, disease prevention and healing. They may be prescribed in combination with a formula of herbs or alone, depending on the condition being treated. Recent scientific and medical research shows the benefits of herbs. While specific chemical properties of plants have been extracted and used in pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs, many herbalists believe that the most effective and safe way to take herbs are in its whole form – such as teas, pills, essential oils, ointments and extracts.

Treatment Method

Western Herbal Medicine can be used to prevent disease, treat it or enhance a patient’s health. The initial appointment with a Western Herbalist will include a health history and physical examination where the practitioner will evaluate the patient’s general well-being, sleep habits, diet, digestion and elimination, exercise and health goals. The herbalist will then prescribe a formula of herbs customized specifically for the patient’s needs. The success of a treatment will depend on the severity of the condition, how long the patient has been afflicted, the dosage, how the herbs are taken, and compliance to the treatment plan. Some conditions can be treated with one visit while chronic conditions may take years to treat.

Provider’s Training

Western herbal training can entail an apprenticeship, self-study, a certificate program or a diploma program. Most programs include the traditional uses of herbs, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, diagnosis and prescription.

Western Herbal Medicine may also be integrated into studies to be a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, midwife or homeopath.

Credentials and Regulation Bodies

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) offers a professional status of Registered Herbalist, AHG to professionals who demonstrate advanced knowledge in the medicinal use of plants, sufficient education and clinical experience, and who pass the AHG credentialing process which includes review by a multidisciplinary admissions board. As a professional member, practitioners must follow a code of ethics, complete continuing education programs and specific standards set by the AHG. RH (AHG), Registered Herbalist, American Herbalists Guild is the most common title given to medical herbalists.

Other titles given to herbalists in the UK and Australia are: MCPP Member, College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy; FNIMH (Fellow, National Institute of Medical Herbalists); MNIMH Member (National Institute of Medical Herbalists); FNHAA Fellow (National Herbalists Association of Australia).

Other practitioners, like naturopathic doctors, pharmacists, and holistic medical doctors, may also hold education and knowledge in Western Herbal Medicine.

Professional Associations

The American Herbalists Guild, founded in 1989, is a non-profit, educational organization representing herbalists and their goals. It is the only peer-review organization in the United State for professional herbalists specializing in the medicinal use of plants.

Pricing

Average hourly fees for an herbalist are $70-$100. The appointment fees may or may not include the costs of the herbal formulas. Follow-up visits are usually less as they may not take the whole hour.

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