Botanical Medicine, also known as herbal medicine, is the use of the medicinal properties of plants to assist the body's natural healing mechanisms. These medicinal properties can be used to treat both acute and chronic illnesses as well as to enhance optimal function.
Many cultures throughout the world have accumulated an impressive understanding of the medicinal and healing properties of plants indigenous to their respective ecosystems. In the past 20 years there have been significant advances in the scientific understanding of the active principles and actions of many herbal "folk" remedies. Examples of this include the use of Hawthorne (Crataegus Oxyacantha) for heart disease, specifically congestive heart failure; St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) for depression; and Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) for endurance and increasing resistance to the effects of stress. In fact, about 25% of all prescription drugs in the U.S. contain active constituents obtained from plants. Since the scientific investigation of medicinal plants is still in it's infancy, we must blend the most current scientfic information with the centuries old traditional knowledge to utilize the full potential of botanical medicines.
Botanical medicines are not simply "green" replacements for pharmaceutical drugs. The most effective botanical medicine prescriptions are those formulated from a deep understanding of the individual patient's needs as well as the multiple ways in which the plant affects physiologic functioning. For example, one person experiencing insomnia due to an overactive nervous system might use some valerian with a good result. However, another person with the same problem might not respond to valerian alone, because the underlying problem causing the insomnia has not been addressed. What that person actually needs is an herbal medicine prescription that will calm and restore the nervous system such as a combination of skullcap, wild oat, Siberian ginseng and lemon balm. There is both a "science" and an "art" to this form of medicine.
Prescribing botanical medicines in this way will correct the underlying dysfunction, leading to a better health outcome with fewer side effects.
While many botanical medicines are safe for self-prescribing, complications can arise when using prescriptive medications with botanical medicines or in specific medical conditions. In these cases, our naturopathic physicians are clinically trained to assess the unique needs specific to each patient.