Medical herbalists have been using plants and folk remedies for centuries, the herbal medicines they used were once the predominant means of treating illnesses until the discovery and use of modern synthetic drugs and chemicals. A significant number of modern conventional medicines have their origins in plants; morphine comes from poppies, aspirin from willow bark.
In modern times herbal medicine has been accepted as one of the many complementary therapies, used increasingly by a public who have become wary about the perceived side effects of modern drugs and requiring more "natural" forms of healthcare.
Herbal therapy is based on a holistic approach to healing, seeking to treat the whole person not just the symptoms The herbal therapist builds up a whole picture of the patient's health and lifestyle before offering advice and treatment specifically for their needs. One form of treatment for one patient may be totally different for another suffering from the same ailment. This approach differs from conventional treatments where physicians normally prescribe to cure the symptoms.
Herbs can be used in different ways, taken in teas and infusions or applied as ointments or poultices. They are an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments including colds, blood disorders, boils, ulcers, toothache, nervous disorders, rheumatism, rashes, catarrh and arthritis.
Medical herbalists, who are trained and have diagnostic skills similar to mainstream physicians, tend to use the whole plant unlike Aromatherapists who use distillations of the essential oils. Many drugs used in conventional medicine owe their existence to plants but they are now synthesised by drug companies making use of only part of the plants properties.
Quite often practitioners of herbal medicine work in conjunction with other types of practitioners or refer patients to other specialists for different or complementary treatment.