Peter Rosser MSc DBTh MIRCH
Frequently Asked Questions
What does treatment involve?
Depending on the outcome of the initial consultation, herbal medicine is prescribed which contains herbs that are selected to be the most beneficial for the patient at this particular time. This will usually be in the form of a bottle of liquid medicine that is taken three times daily, but may vary from this. Oils or creams may also be prescribed for external application, or other forms of preparation may be issued. It is important that the medicine is taken regularly according to the instructions, and any other negotiated advice is followed to obtain maximum benefit from the treatment. The patient is expected to be an active participant in the understanding and resolution of their condition. The opportunity to discuss any concerns between visits by telephone is also available.
What sort of things can be treated?
I am unable to make any claims as to the effectiveness of treatment with herbal medicines, as their perceived effectiveness generally (although there are a number of scientifically written research papers available) relies on their use since ancient times rather than randomised and blinded trials that are nowadays classed as the 'gold standard' when assessing the validity of a drug. However, herbal medicine aims to treat the person not the disease or 'group of symptoms', so does not have the approach that relies on a specific herb for a specific ailment. Illness is a result of the complex situations that occur within an individual, and can include toxicity, excesses, long-standing patterns of detrimental behaviour (physical, mental and/or emotional), genetic predisposition, and many other factors. These result in a condition that the body tries to rebalance by producing ‘symptoms’. The symptoms are not the disease. It is therefore the case that anyone can possibly be helped with herbal medicine regardless of what their disease is actually named as. Herbalism does not treat these diseases directly but cleanses, improves function and strengthens the body to allow it to work correctly without the need for the symptoms. In practise the majority of chronic diseases that are difficult to treat otherwise, can often be relieved by herbal medications over a period of time.
Is treatment with herbal medicines guaranteed 100%?
As stated above I am unable to make medical claims for treatment of specific 'named' diseases. It can however be used to treat digestive disorders, reproductive system disorders and other hormonal issues, skin problems, headaches/migraine, circulatory disorders, joint diseases such as arthritis and many other health issues. There are a number of things that mean that all therapeutic techniques and methods are not 100% effective. These include correct diagnosis of the disease condition, the correct medicinal agents being applied or administered, the ability of the patient to persevere and continue with treatment, and many mysterious factors that quite often seem to defy any understanding of the condition or result in one particular therapy being more beneficial for an individual than another. Herbal medicine is also prone to these aspects, and therefore there is no guarantee of ‘cure’. However, herbal medicine has been around for a very long time and continues to be popular, and this is due to the fact it frequently works.
How long does treatment take?
The development of a disease condition does not usually occur instantaneously (although it can be influenced by identifiable events). It is normally the result of a long period where the condition becomes embedded into the individual person and often suppressive attempts are made to cure the ‘problem’ which can result in further complications. Similarly it cannot be expected to be able to rectify the condition instantaneously. Treatment with Herbal Medicine takes time, as does modification of whatever contributory and influential factors are required. There are no ‘magic bullets’ and the duration of treatment can vary widely depending on the individual patient and their disease history. Saying that, there is usually improvement seen within the first few months. Caution has to be taken not to push the healing faster than the body can deal with. A rule of thumb is that for every year of the condition being evident it takes a month of treatment.
Are herbs safe?
Herbs contain medicinal substances with medicinal effects. If they did not influence the way the body works they would not be used. So the situation where they can have an adverse effect is always possible. In actuality this rarely occurs, and when the correct herbs are used there are no ‘side-effects’ although if herbs are used incorrectly there can be contra-indications where the effect of the herb amplifies the experience of the symptoms and can contribute to the bodily imbalance rather than rectify it. The majority of herbs assist the body in a gradual and gentle way, although there are some herbs that are very powerful and if used incorrectly (nearly always related to the dose) can be poisonous. These herbs are not commonly used in practice, but if they are, then a properly qualified and trained Herbalist will know the dosages and cautions appropriate to the particular herb.
Can herbs be used with other medication?
Many people who consult a Herbalist have a long history of illness and are taking medication usually prescribed by a GP or some other source, or are taking other forms of self-prescribed medication. It is possible that there can be some sort of interaction between these and the herbal medicine prescribed by a Herbalist that can result in an increase or decrease in drug levels in the blood, which is very important for some precisely dosed drugs such as anti-clotting or heart medications. This is usually the concern rather than any potential toxicity. During the initial consultation, a detailed record of all medication is made which is taken into account when selecting the herbs to be included in the medicine, and which pays special attention to known potential interactions. Discontinuation of pharmaceutical medicines is not advised without the co-operation of the GP, although the ultimate aim of the herbal medicine is to reduce the necessity of any drugs including itself. This requires careful monitoring.
How do you assess herbal product quality?
Adulteration of specified herbal material with another herb, usually but not always ineffective, has been an issue for centuries and is usually either due to the crooked intentions of someone in the supply chain, or to simple misidentification. It is important that when buying herbal products that the herb being sold is what it is claimed to be. This can be achieved by buying from herbal product manufacturers who have facilities where plant identification can be reliably carried out, and all chemical components analysed to ensure that the herb is the one it supposed to be. The other method where applicable, is to gather the herb yourself and make the medicines directly from the plant product, preferably (but not always) the fresh material. I use both these methods to stock my clinic.
What ‘kind’ of herbal medicine do you practice?
There are a number of branches of herbal medicine that exist today within the UK. These include Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, and a number of others. The herbalism that I practice is Traditional Western herbal medicine which hails from the Greek philosophies (via a number of important and influential diversions) and from famous personages such as Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna as well as many others. This is the medicine which has long been practiced across Europe and the Arabic countries. It relies on a view of the human being that whilst having similarities with such concepts as exist in TCM and Ayurveda, is essentially different. So what I practice is not TCM, Ayurveda or any other Eastern medical philosophy, but the ancient Western tradition based on humoral conditions of the human being.