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Its all about the herbs…

Herbal medicine has a long history in naturopathic medicine and is a core discipline used in practice today.
Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea) is a common herb used in naturopathic medicine for supporting immune health.
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

In Australia, naturopaths have four to five core disciplines in their tool kit (known as a scope of practice) that they draw on to treatment a range of acute and chronic diseases.

Botanical medicine

Botanical medicine (also known as herbal medicine, Western herbal medicine or herbalism) is the practice of using plants and plant parts for therapeutic purposes. For example, using a herbal tea to assist with digestion, taking a herbal tablet to support healthy immune function, or being prescribed a herbal fluid mix to support stress or address a specific disease.

Historically, botanical medicine can be traced back through the centuries that naturopathic medicine has been established such as the contributions of the Eclectics that we discussed in Week 1. As naturopathic medicine has grown and established itself in various ways, botanical medicine has also changed over time in how naturopaths use and apply botanical medicine to patient care. However, the principles behind botanical medicine have continued to stay grounded in clinical care.

Contemporary botanical medicine in naturopathic medicine

As a core discipline in naturopathic medicine, naturopaths learn and practice with over 150 different herbs for clinical care. Naturopaths apply the use of herbal medicines in various diseases to assist patient’s in reaching wellness, to support their quality of life, to improve patient vitality, or address a particular aspect of a disease or illness known as disease pathophysiology. In order to effectively and safely prescribe botanical medicine, naturopaths learn about the various chemical components of herbs which is known as Pharmacognosy. Understanding how herbs work in the human body is a vital aspect of clinical care that can have significant benefits in patient’s health and well-being.

Naturopathic botanical medicine prescription

Prescribing botanical medicine can occur in various ways depending on the scope of practice. Commonly herbs are used either in their whole form (i.e., the whole plant), or specific parts of the plant (i.e., the roots or leaves), or can be formulated as a constituent only (i.e., a single compound from the herb) formulations. Herbal medicines can also be used as food such as garlic which has strong immune system actions. The forms of botanical medicine used in naturopathic medicine include fluid extracts, herbal teas, powders, tablets, and capsules. The forms and doses of botanical medicine vary based on the specific herbal medicine, the practitioner’s education, the scope of practice, jurisdictions, location, and status of the herbal medicine (e.g., endangered herbal medicines are rarely used).

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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