Types of Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicines come in many guises. This is because a plant or a tree is a living thing and medical herbalists may use the whole plant, the flowers, the leaves, the roots, the bark, the buds, the stems or even the fruit. Each part of the plant may have different medicinal uses and lend themselves to certain types of preparation. Sometimes a medical herbalist might choose to use a fresh plant – but this can only be done when the plant is in season and must be used immediately. Most herbal medicines are most commonly prepared in three bases: water, alcohol and oil.
Water based preparations include infusions (aka as teas or tisanes), decoctions and syrups which are taken internally and poultices, lotions, and compresses which are used externally.
- Infusions are usually made from flowers, leaves, aerial parts and roots, berries, barks and seeds.
- Decoctions are more suitable for plant material that is hard such as roots, berries, barks and seeds. Using the same proportions as for an infusion, adding a little extra water for that lost in boiling, the plant material is boiled for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Syrups are excellent for children where they are particularly helpful for respiratory disorders and are nutritive.
- Poultices are very effective in situations where taking medicines orally are a problem and they can relieve symptoms and promote healing locally.
- Compresses are generally a soft cloth wrung out of a hot or cold infusion or decoction and applied to reduce pain and inflammation and reduce fevers.
Alcohol-based preparations and their non-alcohol alternatives such as vegetable glycerines or vinegars are called tinctures.
Oil-based preparations include infused oils and ointments which are used externally.
Other preparations commonly used are:
- Powders (capsules or loose)
- Steam inhalations
- Baths and skin washes
- Gargles and mouthwashes
- Pessaries and suppositories.
Medical Herbalists at the House of Herbs are trained to prescribe and dispense bespoke herbal medicines for their patients and use quality suppliers with proven GMP practices (such as Rutland Biodynamics, Avicenna Herbs and Herbs in a Bottle) to ensure the highest quality of our herbal medicines.