(as Complementary or Alternative Medicine)
By Kebakuile Legae G. B.
Study and use of plant material as food and medicine for healing and health
Botany describes an herb as a low-growing non-woody plant, herbalists make use
of the entire plant kingdom.
It has been practiced outside of conventional medicine, but is rapidly becoming
mainstream. Helped by the analysis and research of herbal constituents and
activities, delving into their value in treatment and prevention of disease.
History and Background
• Archeological findings suggest that plants had been used for medicinal purposes
long before recorded history. Indigenous cultures (e.g., African and Native American)
incorporated herbs into their healing rituals, while traditional medical systems
(e.g., Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) developed systematic uses for
• Ethnobotanists have discovered that widely separated groups of people have a
tendency to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes
History and Background cntd
Most traditional herbal uses were derived through observation, sensory
perception, sacred teachings, and intuition.
Western herbal medicine has been influenced by the development of the scientific
method and advances in analytical technology:
– SCIENTISTS began manipulating plant materials by extracting their active
principal ingredients, and by chemically modifying isolated ingredients to
reduce side effects and enhance therapeutic properties
– CHEMISTS began synthesizing organic compounds
– PRACTITIONERS began the transition from raw herbs to synthetic
** In 1870, the United States Pharmacopeia listed 636 herbal entries; by
1990, only 58 were listed. Some herbs were dropped from the list because they
were considered unsafe or ineffective. However decline in use was mainly due to
regulatory and economic factors favouring pharmaceuticals and the trained
practitioners (e.g., medical doctors)
History and Background cntd
Herbalists often use whole plant extracts containing multiple constituents.
– Theory= the ingredients collectively reduce the side effects of any individual
constituent (known as "buffering")
– They provide synergistic actions.
– In addition, herbs are generally used in combinations, rather than singly. Using
several herbs together is thought to augment synergistic activities, enhance
efficacy, and reduce toxicity
Diagnosis and treatment are based on the herbalist's understanding of the whole
personbody, mind, and spirit. Diseases are perceived within the context of the
Mechanism of Action
• Western science attributes herbal mechanisms of action to plant
– e.g. carbohydrates, tannins, lipids, volatile
oils, steroids, alkaloids, peptide hormones, enzymes, etc.
– Therapeutic actions of plants may be influenced by:
• Species (the individual plant itself),
Including such variables as; habitat, companion
plants, pests, collection, storage, processing, dispensing, and dosing;
presence of contaminants/plant disease;
• Patient: age, health status, disease, receptivity to healing; the
symbolic or cultural significance of the plant; and the placebo
• For most herbal medicines, the exact compound that produces the
pharmacological action is unknown and any therapeutic effects are most
likely the result of synergistic action among herbal constituents.
• Herbalists treat many conditions such as:
• asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid
arthritis, migraine, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, and irritable
bowel syndrome, among others.
• Although herbal preparations are best taken under the guidance of a
trained professional, many patients self-medicate with herbals.
Risks, Side Effects, Adverse Events
• Although herbs, when properly prescribed, are generally thought to
offer fewer risks than conventional
medications, misidentification, mislabeling, self-prescribing, allergic
reactions, undeclared additives, and contaminants increase the
likelihood of adverse effects.
• Other risks involve interactions between herbs and conventional
medications, and herbal prescribing by unqualified practitioners. Most
contraindications involve drug-herb interactions.
Many herbalists either treat patients through a private practice, or as part of a holistic medicine clinic. Typically
they see patients to understand their ailments or health conditions, and determine the best treatment plans
based on the patients’ needs. Herbalists work in the same manner as traditional physicians, beginning with
patient consultations, working through the diagnosis, and providing an appropriate treatment plan.
Treatment: one-on-one healing sessions may include soul retrieval ceremonies, massage-therapy, herbal
steams, healing remedies, plant brushings, aromatherapy and more.
Analgeasics– cardamom, camphor, aloe vera, cloves, castor oil, devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
Anti-inflammatory—aloe vera, apple, alfalfa, chamomille, black seed oil (Nigella sativa)
Antibacterials--cranberry, eucalyptus, lemon grass, kava-kava, sage (Salvia officinalis), tea-tree oil
Hypertension—mistletoe tea, hibiscus tea, dandelion and billberry coffee
Diabetes—cinnamon, green; black and white tea, aloe juice
Cancer prevention—alfalfa, turmeric, dong quai root.
Libido—damiana, ginkgo, goat weed
Herbal teas & oils, capsules/powders, massage oils & balms, aromatherapy, tinctures, smokes.
• Since this is a newer form of medicine, there are no set educational requirements.
Herbalists often have a medical background, but this is not a prerequisite. The most
important educational requirement for an herbalist is to keep up with current trends
and healing properties of plants and herbs.
• However, there official schools and certification programmes/studies widely available:
http://www.herbnet.com/university_p2.htm. These range from lower level
certificates up to Degrees and Honours.
• As well as on-line courses which offer basic guide to using herbs.
• Herbalist usually a have to sign up with an organizing body/society. Their accreditation
can be based on where they studied/learned.
• European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA)
• The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH)-UK
• The Canadian Herbalist's Association of BC
• National Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA)
• The National Reference Centre for African Traditional Medicines (NRCATM)
Code of Ethics - SA
Everyone has a right to equality
Traditional Health Practitioners and their patients may not unfairly be discriminated against on the following grounds;
race, gender, sex, pregnancy, religion, conscience, belief, culture, age, marital status, association, ethnicity among others
Traditional healing should not experience any form of discrimination when compared with other health professions.
Everyone has a right to human dignity
Traditional Health Practitioners and their patients have to be treated with respect and dignity. Patients of THPs must not be
subjected to any form of discrimination or unfair treatment.
Everyone has freedom to associate
Traditional Health Practitioners like all other individuals have a right and freedom to associate with an organisation /
association of their choice without fear of intimidation.
Everyone has a right to privacy
Traditional Health Practitioners must respect their patients’ confidentiality and not disclose any medical information to third
parties without their patients’ express consent and no one will have the right to search Traditional Medicine Clinics and have
the right to seize their possession without a formal communication served.
Every Traditional Health Practitioner has a right to Assembly, demonstrate, picket and petition
Traditional Health Practitioners like other groups have a right to stage a peaceful picket, demonstration and submit a
Everyone has the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion
Traditional Health Practitioners and their patients may not be prevented from expressing or practising their beliefs, tradition
and healing techniques, unless proven beyond reasonable doubt that such practice causes undue suffering or infringes on
the human right of others.
Everyone has the right to freedom of trade, occupation and profession
Traditional Health Practitioners like other health professionals must be free to practice their profession.
Everyone has a right to Life
Traditional Health Practitioners are always expected to preserve and respect their patients’ life, as an absolute right.
Everyone has a right to fair labour practice
No employer may dismiss an employee for presenting an accredited medical certificate from a Traditional Health
Everyone has the right to have their environment protected
Traditional Health Practitioners have a right to gather and prepare medicines however, in the process of doing that do not
contribute to environmental degradation but natural resource.
Everyone has a right access to health care services
Everyone should be able to make use of adequate, accessible, safe and beneficial health care assistance of their choice
without any intimidation.
Everyone has a right to property
Traditional Health Practitioners may not be forced or compelled by anyone to give information related to their indigenous
Everyone has a right to Freedom of Expression
All Traditional Health Practitioner’s including members of the THO to enjoy without fear of intimidation all rights as
enshrined in the constitution of the Republic, in particular this right. THPs like any other profession have the right to speak
out on anything that bothers them and their professional administration. No one has absolute right over freedom of
expression, this mean the right to practice hate speech, sell wrong, misinformation news and ridicule members. Members
have a right to speak out on poor service delivery, discrimination, hate, intolerances and any other forms of abuse exerted
upon them by whether the private sector, civil society, state or institutions of the community and individuals.
Code of Ethics-National Herbalists Association of Australia
Code of Ethics-The National Institute of Medical Herbalists
(NIMH) – UK
• Mr Blakeymore, the keen Herbalist
Mr Blakeymore suffers from severe aggressive Rheumatoid
arthritis. For reasons which are not completely clear to you, he
refuses treatment with NSAIDs (from normal medicine) and pins all
his faith in herbal remedies which he obtains from a long standing
friend. As far as you can see, this treatment is having no effect at
all, and Mr Blakeymore is developing quite severe Rheumatoid
You feel very upset about his deterioration, which you feel is
due to the lack of “proper” treatment. Are you justified in trying
to persuade Mr Blakeymore that his treatment is pointless?
NO ACTUAL DILEMMAS ??
• There aren’t any specific ethical dilemmas that could be
identified in relation to using Herbalism as a form of
treatment. The usual findings are that Herbalist must always
maintain a truthful relationship, must never prescribe herbs
as a single, basic or straightforward cure to any ailment. They
must always give clear and prudent advice to their patients
about the herb properties in contrast with normal Modern
medicine. It must always be the patient’s decision.