Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explains the worlds of herbal and pharmaceutical
One of the questions Nicola is frequently asked is if herbal medicine can replace pharmaceutical medications.
The answer to this is never a simple one and as a rule of thumb, no medication should be stopped or altered without the advice of your doctor.
In addition, I would argue that while over the counter preparations can be very helpful, to use a herb safely and to get the greatest benefit from it, the best thing to do is consult a herbalist.
If you’re concerned about being on a medication and wondering if you are allowed to stop it at your own discretion, check with your doctor at the time they prescribe it.
Some medicines, like certain pain killers, laxatives or anti histamines are used to treat a temporary problem and can be safely discontinued when symptoms cease.
I see a lot of people taking medicines that are not working or for problems that have long since been resolved.
If you have a question about one of your medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what benefit it is providing and whether or not it is still appropriate for your current condition of health.
Examples of people asking me to replace their medications include, women with hormonal problems, getting no benefit from their prescribed contraception medication, people with digestive issues, getting no relief from the omeprazole that has been prescribed, pain untouched by pain killers, eczema that is not responding to antihistamines and antidepressants or beta blockers that are not easing feelings of anxiety and depression.
These are all issues I regularly address in my clinic, but the important thing to note is that the services of a herbalist are not there to replace primary care.
The two are not mutually exclusive and one does not replace the other, they are in fact two sides of the same coin. Actually, health itself is multifaceted and can include any number of different therapies.
You wouldn’t stop seeing your physio for shoulder pain because you started to visit a counsellor for stress. Likewise, you shouldn’t stop seeing your doctor or taking medications because you have started seeing a herbalist about herbal therapy and nutrition.
Some medications need to be stopped slowly, some cause withdrawal symptoms and some may seem unnecessary but are in fact playing an important role.
I don’t advise on how to stop medications, because it is not my job. I wouldn’t try to fix the electrics in your house any more than I would start advising you on medications that I am not trained to prescribe. Both would be very dangerous.
This doesn’t mean I can’t help. I have, in many cases, successfully assisted someone in coming off a medication they have been put on.
I do this while their GP advises them on their medication doses and I advise them on herbs they can safely use.
In this way, we can safely build a road to success, while reducing reliance of pharmaceuticals which may have been problematic or only treating the symptoms instead of getting to the root of the problem.
Another point that I often make to concerned patients is that pharmaceutical medications are not inherently ‘bad’.
Some come with unpleasant side effects and are not recommended for long term use, but in some cases, they provide nothing but benefit.
In my own field, this is exactly the same with herbs. Some herbs can be toxic when used for long periods of time, while others are perfectly safe.
If you’re concerned about your prescription, take some time to consider where your worries come from.
Are you experiencing side effects? Has the medicine stopped working? Or, is it just because the idea of taking something ‘natural’ sounds better?
A qualified herbalist will be able to talk you through the benefits and limitations of herbal and nutritional intervention.
We can have a huge impact on certain areas of your health, but our power does have its limits.
Any herbalist worth their salt will be open about these limitations and no qualified herbalist will start messing around with medication prescribed by a GP.
We stick to what we are good at, because well... we are very, very good at it!
For more information or to book an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.