Consulting a Medical Herbalist - frequently asked questions

How do I find out if a herbalist is properly qualified?

A medical herbalist who is a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists will have completed a substantial three or four year training programme in medical sciences and botanical therapeutics. Training in nutrition is also included and so a medical herbalist can advise on diet and food supplements. Members of the Institute also have a code of ethics which ensures your best interests. If your medical herbalist is a full member of the Institute then she/he will have the letters MNIMH or FNIMH after his/her name.

What happens at a first consultation?

A first appointment usually lasts about one hour. During this time full details of your particular illness or problem will be taken as well as relevant information about diet, exercise and lifestyle. You will be asked about childhood and family illness and there will be questions to establish how well your body systems are working. Your medical herbalist will need to know about any prescribed medicines from your doctor and other supplements taken. Using a holistic approach, he/she will aim to identify the underlying problems which have led to illness. You will also be able to ask any questions you have about treatment at the consultation.

What sorts of herbal medicines are likely to be used?

A typical medical herbalist has a full range of 100 or more herbal tinctures and liquid extracts in stock as well as dried herbs, tablets and other preparations. A different mixture of herbs is made up for each and every individual. Usually the mixture consists of five or more specially chosen herbs to correct, balance and tone the underlying problem areas. The adult dose is one teaspoon in water three times per day, and dosage for children is reduced according to age. You may also receive tablets or a herb tea with full instructions on use. Your medical herbalist will ensure that you can safely take the herbal medicine alongside prescribed medications from your doctor.

How long does herbal treatment last?

Everyone is different and so it is hard to be specific about the length of time needed to improve health. (Some people say that a month of treatment is needed for each year of an illness but this is a very rough guide!) Usually patients are seen within two weeks of the first appointment and then further appointments can be made at increasing intervals of three, four or more weeks. This arrangement allows for close monitoring of progress and enables changes to be made in the herbal medicine when needed.

Which problems are most likely to be helped by herbal medicine?

A huge range of problems can be helped with herbal medicine. Many women find that herbs have helped cystitis, thrush, pre-menstrual problems, infertility, period pains and menopause. Skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis can respond well, as do allergies and migraines. Circulatory complaints including varicose veins and blood pressure problems have been helped. Disturbances of the digestive system which can benefit include indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. Herbal medicines can also be used to help control arthritis and to maintain a good immune system against colds, bronchitis and other infections. Sometimes herbs can be useful when you just feel 'out of sorts', stressed or depressed! Usually you can arrange a free short advice session with the medical herbalist to decide whether herbal medicine is right for you.