22.12.2013 Natural Therapies

Herbs, Nature's Healers

Naturopath Lyn Craven continues her exploration of herbal medicine.

"Adopt the peace of Nature. Her Secret is Patience"

"Come forth into the Light of things, Let Nature be your Teacher"

Chief Seattle

Herbs can be used to successfully treat an extensive range of health problems, offering options that are less likely to create toxic side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. They include:

  • Common cold, flu and sore throats
  • Bacterial infections whether topical, oral or internal eg vaginal
  • Parasites and worms
  • All digestive/bowel problems such as bloating, reflux (often referred to now medically as GERD), helicobacter pylori, stomach/duodenal ulcers including bleeding ulcers, Candida, constipation, diahorrea, irritable bowel syndrome, fatty liver, to name a few!
  • Respiratory disorders - bronchitis, asthma, sinus, hay fever and rhinitis
  • Skin disorders - acne, eczema, dermatitis, hives and some cases of psoriasis
  • Fungal infections whether on toes/hands/groin or elsewhere
  • Reproductive problems - menstrual pain, cysts, fibroids, amenorrhea (missed periods for longer than four months) menorrhagia (heavy bleeding), perimenopause, menopause, andropause, prostatitis, infertility, preparation for pregnancy
  • Endocrine problems (hormonal), balancing the entire endocrine system helping with adrenal fatigue/support, thyroid balancing (hyper/hypo states), stress management
  • Immune support - chronic fatigue syndrome (treating the root cause), convalescence from serious illness, auto immune disorders such as fibromyalgia, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, lupis, arthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Anxiety, sleep disorders, hair thinning/loss
  • Poor athletic performance
  • Neuroprotective therapy - anti ageing therapy preventing and supporting degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, dementia, Alzheimer's, glaucoma, macular degeneration.

When herbal medicine is used for any of the above, on many occasions homoeopathics could be included with the healing program. Nutritional supplements, digestive enzymes and probiotics are also included if required. It really depends on the person and disorder being treated, including such factors as whether it is acute or chronic, their age and constitutional strength and if they have been prescribed pharmaceutical medications. Aside from the last factor (since you should not cease taking the pharmaceutical drugs without consulting with your prescribing doctor) a dietary and lifestyle assessment is always taken to ascertain any nutritional deficiencies, along with relevant blood tests or specific functional lab tests.

How long should I take herbal medicine?

The duration would depend on what is being treated and the individual's compliance. Remedies are assessed with each visit and sometimes the formula could be repeated for three months or more or changed slightly. Chronic cases may call for herbal remedies for several months. Remember, it took a long time for your body to develop certain disorders so you can't expect an overnight fix. Natural remedies are not a "quick fix". They work much deeper at the root cause and cellular level to establish equilibrium in the energy of the cells and restore normal function, physiologically and metabolically. Acute cases like the common cold or a sore throat may only need remedies for a short time.

It is best not to dabble and self prescribe with herbs. You may become disillusioned if they don't appear to work (through wrong choices), or you could make matters worse. See a qualified herbalist, naturopath, Traditional Chinese or Traditional Ayurvedic herbal practitioner and ask if they formulate and dispense fluid extracts since some modern naturopaths have let go of their herbal dispensaries and simply offer you ready-made, formulated capsules and tablets. Remember, these are generalised formulas and not all parts of the formula may be appropriate for you. Having your own formula created for your unique presentation is far better.

The Fear Factor

It is a challenge for people who visit a GP where he/she is not receptive to natural therapies since the patient becomes confused and encouraged to cease taking such remedies when, in fact, they are often improving their health. Fear can generate anxiety on both sides.

On the other hand, you may meet a doctor who wishes to prescribe you herbs but, as I wrote last month, many are not trained in herbal medicine and cannot formulate. Instead, they'll often prescribe patented products that are capsulated or in tablet form. There appears to be a distrust of a natural medicine practitioner being authentically able to select, formulate and dispense a herbal formula. Better communication between the doctor and the natural therapist about how specific herbs work can only be beneficial to everyone! Education is the key and authentic, well trained natural medicine practitioners are deserving of more respect from both the medical profession and the media. All of us working in health need to practise with authenticity, integrity and compassion.

Over the years, I have spoken to many people who are disillusioned with the treatments they have received in conventional medicine and opt for natural therapies. Many present with chronic and complicated cases. Most follow through, but some want it resolved quickly but that's impossible, especially when they present with over a dozen pharmaceutical drugs they have been prescribed. Often, they have been prescribed to offset the symptoms of the last or are a stronger alternative when the original seems to have lost its effectiveness. In my view, pharmaceutical drugs mask the symptoms and offer a bandaid result rather than resolving the root cause of the problem.

Yes, we do need pharmaceutical drugs but mainly for emergencies and for short term treatment. However, there could be a few unique exceptions here. I have met some people who have been left on Zoloft, for instance, for years, with their dosage apparently never assessed. These people are often in a complete emotional mess. No herb would generate this state of imbalance.

I stress this point since there are too many TV programs and other media eager to devalue and criticise herbal medicine for health and wellness. Many programs offer inaccurate information and are often biased.

When should I see a Natural Medicine Practitioner?

Many people prefer to work at preventative medicine, ensuring their nutritional status is correct and balanced. They may also receive a form of bodywork, whether massage, Bowen therapy, acupuncture or reflexology. All these therapies are not only deeply relaxing but also help balance the vital force energy and help with postural alignment, general aches and pain and correcting any imbalances that may occur through daily stress. Our society is very stressful these days and many digestive problems are a result of this. Stress can trigger so many health disorders.

I am amused when people postpone or cancel an appointment saying they are not feeling well. Many don't realise that this is a perfect time to seek out herbal medicine and other forms of natural remedies to speed up the recovery and support the vital force (qi in Chinese medicine).

So next time you think of racing off to a doctor consider a natural medicine practitioner. Your body will benefit greatly with a holistic, rather than symptomatic, approach. You will learn so much more about your body, what it needs and how it can be helped. A holistic approach will enable you to take back responsibility for your health by supporting it rather than heading off for the quick fix drug.

Everyone needs to learn patience when it comes to deep healing. This is far more profound and long lasting than masking your symptoms so you can continue with wrong lifestyle choices or hiding your pain.

I leave you with a quote from one of history's great physicians.

"All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it." Philippus Theophrastus Bombast that of Aureolus ~ Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing and meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 19 years' experience in natural therapies. www.lyncravencorporatehealth-naturopath.com

Disclaimer: Information presented in this column is not intended as medical advice but to advance the understanding of herbal medicine and its place in a balanced approach to health. Readers are encouraged to be guided by their own healthcare professionals.

Lyn Craven

Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804