What is herbal medicine? Herbal medicine is the oldest and most widely used system of medicine in the world today. It is still the first choice of medicine in many cultures, being successfully used for thousands of years. As its name suggests, it is medicine made exclusively from plants. It is used in all societies and is common to all cultures with every culture having its own style of medicine; where the plants they use, the way they prepare and use their medicines, and the philosophy of their treatment approaches may vary greatly. Western herbal medicine is based on European herbal medicine traditions and is increasingly being validated by scientific investigation which seeks to understand the active chemistry of the plant. Plants contain a large number of naturally occurring chemicals that have vast biological activity potentials. The therapeutic activity of a plant is due to its complex chemical nature, with different parts of the plant providing specific therapeutic effects. Many modern pharmaceutical drugs have been modeled on or derived from these compounds found in plants. When used therapeutically, herbal medicines are directed the root cause of physiological dysfunction rather than suppressing symptoms of a disease process. In the naturopathic philosophy of herbal medicine the prevention of disease is just as important as the management of a particular illness. These approaches to wellness are based on the fundamental principle that the body has the inherent ability to heal itself and when using herbal medicine and other gentle therapeutic techniques, the state of the physical, mental and emotional health are supported during the healing process. Naturopathic principles are based on the healthcare philosophy in which the patient as a whole is evaluated and treated, not just their condition, and each person is seen as an individual with a different set of circumstances. A holistic philosophy involves treating individuals within a wider framework of their emotional, mental, social, economical, spiritual and cultural aspects as well as their physical health. It also involves educating and empowering an individual to maintain good health and wellbeing. Using plants as medicine provides significant advantages for treating many conditions ranging from common minor aliments to chronic illness. Herbal medicine aims to minimise symptoms, to support the body's capacity to repair and return to balance, and to prevent future illness. Fundamental transformations in health and wellbeing can be achieved. The medicines are safer to use working with our body chemistry rather than against it and are without the inherent side- effects commonly found in drug-based medication. These natural remedies can take the form of tablets and capsules, teas, liquid tinctures and extracts, creams, ointments and balms, poultices and baths. An initial consultation with a Western Medical Herbalist will take from 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours and several follow up sessions are usually required. Herbal products are an important part of health care but self prescription is not advisable, as even the safest herb can interact with other medications. A consultation with a professional Herbalist is recommended. For serious health complaints please see your local GP or for a health emergency please call an ambulance or head straight to you closest hospital's emergency department.