I use herbal medicine to help people become and stay well, also as preventative medicine. As a university-recognised medical herbalist I am scientifically trained in human biology, clinical naturopathy, biochemistry, diagnostic testing, clinical medicine, medical nutrition, and mental health. I hold a degree in complementary medicine.
Herbs have been used in medicine since the beginning of humanity. We can see from up to 17,000-year-old Australian Aboriginal rock paintings human relationship with herbs and food.
Texts from tens of thousands of years go back to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Persia, India and China showing herbal formulas.
Herbal medicine is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a singular clinical discipline. The WHO recently published that 88% of the world’s population use herbs in some form as part of their primary care (1); and inform that it is wise to use a qualified practitioner to avoid adverse reactions.
Why use herbal medicine?
As we study and research herbs, we can see that a single herb may have multiple actions on the body due to its many constituents. As humans our biological systems have evolved to naturally react to different plants.
The body must be balanced. As medical herbalists we may combine different herbs into a formula to not only to beat disease but also balance the body at the same time. Restoring what we call homeostasis or the natural vibrant body state.
Modern chemical medicine, which is only 200 years old, tends to use one single chemical to do one thing. This means there’s a very high level of side effects and complications.
We know that the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has thousands of reports a year of side effects from chemical medications, surgeries and vaccines. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ten times more. Both have been accused of hiding and distorting the figures (2).
The pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars profit a year from patented chemical medicines. And their influence on government is phenomenal.
Side effects from herbs are rare and they aren’t able to be patented so those companies can’t make big profits from them.
What can herbs help?
As clinical herbalists we work in primary and chronic care. That means we work with a whole host of conditions and diseases.
Herbalism in mental health
In the clinic I constantly use herbs with mental health patients for many different reasons. The body and the mind aren’t separate but simply the whole of your life experience.
With mental health problems there’s often a physical cause which must be treated. If it’s not treated the resolution won’t be possible.
I may order a range of laboratory tests because we really have to make it clear what’s happening with you. To try and treat you mentally while ignoring your physical problems would be negligent.
I collect thousands of pieces of information about you so I can work out the best way to help you go forward fast. The use of herbs to resolve your mental health issues is well recognised, along with psychotherapeutic, lifestyle and dietary change (4).
What is the scientific approach to herbalism?
I’m trained as a researcher and have spent a lot of my career researching, reporting, writing and publishing. Okay I will admit, I’m obsessed with research.
The scientific clinical herbal approach is a form of evidence-based medicine. The reporting may come from two sources:
– Firstly, what herbals have been used successfully for thousands of years in different cultures.
– Secondly reviewing present-day modern clinical reporting and studies that have observed the actions and results for each herb or herbal combinations (3).
The herbal evidence is scientifically vast, but drug companies spend money trying to bury it because it interferes with their profits.
Working with your other practitioners
This depends on what kind of treatment you’re receiving and how successful that is for you. Sometimes people come into the clinic and have four different practitioners they’re seeing.
This frequently leads to a disaster because one specialist will rarely talk or write to another (5). This produces complete confusion and the treatment for one may be damaging the treatment for another.
I must assess the situation and decide with my clinical and ethical duties and how I must comply with the law. Most of all I must decide what’s in your best interests and seek your permission to talk to to other practitioners.
I advise you to inform your GP of the treatment I provide.
Why patients choose herbal medicine
- Because it has generally much fewer side effects
- It’s generally gentler on your body
- Other approaches have failed
- More than one condition can be treated at once
- It’s both curative and preventive
- Herbalists take a lot of information about you to come to calculated treatment plans.
None of the products we prescribe contain animal constituents.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, is a qualified clinical herbalist, naturopath, medical nutritionist, psychotherapy and mental health professional. She uses herbs to help you with your physical and mental needs. In clinic visits or by Zoom anywhere in the world. Call 0403 398 808.
(1) World Health Organization. (n.d.). Catalysing ancient wisdom and modern science for the health of people and the planet. https://www.who.int/initiatives/who-global-centre-for-traditional-medicine
(2) Ekor, M. (2014). The growing use of herbal medicines: issues relating to adverse reactions and challenges in monitoring safety. Front Pharmacol, 4:177https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3887317/
(3) Firenzuoli, F., & Gori, L. (2007). Herbal Medicine Today: Clinical and Research Issues. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 4(1): 37–40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2206236/
(4) Liu, L., Liu, C., Wang, Y., Wang, P., Li, Y., & Li, B. (2015). Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. Curr Neuropharmacol, 13(4):481-93. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26412068/
(5) Srivastava, R. (2017). When specialists and GPs don’t communicate, the patient suffers. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/23/when-specialists-and-gps-dont-communicate-the-patient-suffers