Herbal Medicine for Nutritional Therapy (Herbal Actions (Analgesic…
for Nutritional Therapy
Definition of herbs
plants that are extremely high in phytochemicals
These phytochemicals generally have a pharmacological action in
the body which vary widely
What is the difference between food &
Not much! Generally it is a societal/cultural view of what we classify
as a food or a herb.
Plants that have been used to give flavour or colour to food (eg a
Plants that contain specific pharmacological phytochemicals that
have been use as medicine
Herbs (plants) make phytochemicals in response to their
environment. Many species of herbs can vary widely in their levels of
phytochemicals dependant on where they were grown.
Scientific research into phytochemicals is high, due them often being
the basis for new drug constituents
Some phytochemicals can actually be harmful
to health - for example if you gave your grandmother
a cup of foxglove tea it could kill her (heart attack)!
Herbs and the law
herbal laws have changed. They are now
regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory
agency (MHRA). This means many herbal medicines now have to
comply with new laws
The only medicinal herbs that you will be able to be buy off the shelf
will have to by licensed for use in the UK by the MHRA
How will I know if it is registered?
The product will have a THR followed by a printed number on the
product and contain the THR logo. It will also contain a patient
If a herb has the same effect as a drug this can lead to a
dangerously strong effect i.e. taking a herbal blood thinner (ginkgo) at the
same time as warfarin.
Some herbs negate the effect of drugs, i.e. St Johns
wort speeds up drug clearance pathways in the liver (cytochrome P450).
This can be dangerous if patients are taking life maintaining medications.
St Johns wort has been banned in Ireland (except on prescription)for this
Pregnancy and breast feeding
Many herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy and breast feeding
Some can cause birth defects (teratogens)
others can induce miscarriage.
Herbal constituents can also pass into breast milk - dangerous for infants
with immature liver function and immunity
Only use simple teas such as ginger or peppermint for morning sickness,
or fennel to encourage breast milk production. Never use herbal capsules
or herbal supplements in pregnancy.
Rules for safe prescribing
some of the most potent toxins on the planet come from
the plant world
Check and double check for possible interactions with patients
Always treat herbal medicines with respect, knowledge and
If you find any contraindications do not prescribe the herb
Herbalists blend different herbs in formulas to give an overall daily
dose of around 15 - 20ml daily.
If you prescribe a number of different herbal supplements, each at
the dosage levels on the bottle, patients can end up taking a very
high overall quantity of herbs, which may be unsafe
Try to choose 1 – 2 herbal supplements only.
Schedule 3 Herbs
herbs are subject to legal dosage restrictions and can only be prescribed
and dispensed by qualified herbalists, doctors and pharmacists. They must be kept
in a locked cupboard a herbal dispensary
Aconite (external only)
Arnica (external only)
Lily of the valley
contain ‘bitter principles’ that stimulate production of
digestive juices and release of bile from the liver
strengthens digestive power,
helps detoxification and is mildly laxative
contain volatile oils which relax the smooth and
sphincter muscles in the digestive system
This reduces gas, boating and muscle
spasms in the GIT
have a ‘tonic’ and
strengthening effect, helping improve energy and stamina.
contain tannins which cause a dry sensation in the
mouth and dry out mucous membranes in the digestive system. Helps to reduce diarrhoea
and used externally in first aid to stop bleeding and speed healing
contain ‘mucilage’ which has a ‘slippery’ texture
that coats, protects and heals inflamed tissues. Helps to heal gastric ulcers and externally
Infusion: Made by pouring just boiled water over dry or fresh plant material and leaving to
steep (infuse) for 10 – 15 minutes.
Used for ‘delicate plant parts such as flowers (chamomile), leaves (peppermint) and fruit
Usual dose is 1 heaped teaspoon (1 tea bag) per cup taken 3 times daily.
Decoction (from Latin to cook) Made by simmering plant material for 10 – 15 minutes.
Used for harder woody parts such as bark (wild cherry), seed (milk thistle) and roots
Usual dose is 1 heaped teaspoon per cup taken 3 times daily
Glycerite: Plant extract made by soaking herbs in glycerine, ideal for children's’ medicines.
Usual dose is 5ml taken 3 times daily
Tincture: Plant extract made by soaking herbs in a mixture alcohol and water, usually for 30 days.
Usual dose is 5ml taken 3 times daily. This is most common form used by herbal practitioners.
Any herb can be made into a tincture.
• All tincture labels are marked with information on strength and alcohol content:
• 1:2 25% or 1:5 45% etc
• 1:2 means each litre of tincture contains 500g herb (1 part herb to 2 parts liquid)
• 1:5 means each litre of tincture contains 200g herb (1 part herb to 5 parts liquid)
• Therefore 1:2 is stronger than 1:5
• 25% means each litre contains 250ml alcohol and 750ml water
• 45% therefore has a higher alcohol content
Fluid extract: Strong tincture (1:1) one kilo herb per litre. Less is needed for the same effect. Usual
dose is 2 – 3ml taken 3 times daily.
Standardised extracts: These are manufactured to contain a consistent level of one or more
plant constituents which are derived from the original plant material. Over the counter herbal
products are often ‘standardised’
Poultice: Topical application finely chopped, wet, plant material (such as bruised fresh herbs, or
rehydrated dry herbs), usually wrapped in a fine woven cloth and held in place by bandage (i.e.
comfrey leaf for arthritic pain).
Volatile oils: Also called ‘essential oils’ are aromatic chemicals extracted from plants by
distillation. External use in creams, massage oils. i.e. tea tree oil
Macerated oils: herb material is soaked in a carrier oil (such as olive or almond oil) for external
application (i.e. Calendula (marigold) oil for skin conditions)
Many of your patients will already drink herbal teas, guide them to the
most appropriate tea for their condition and constitution.
Anti-inflammatory, demulcent and a nervine relaxant. Specific for
digestive complaints aggravated by stress or anxiety. Ideal for most children's’
complaints – can be used externally as a wash for eczema
PEPPERMINT Carminative for gas bloating and IBS
FENNEL Carminative for gas bloating and IBS, increases breast milk production
ROSEHIP OR HIBISCUS Antioxidant and high in vitamin C to boost immunity
LIME FLOWER Relaxing nervine for stress and insomnia
LEMON BALM Relaxing nervine
LICORICE Mild laxative, anti-inflammatory, expectorant,soothing to stomach – can
GINGER Carminative and warming for poor circulation.
CINNAMON Carminative, anti-diarrhoeal and warming for poor circulation
GREEN TEA Antioxidant but very astringent – risk of constipation!
NETTLE Cleansing and builds the blood
SAGE Good for sore throats, menopausal flushes, promoting intelligence.
SPEARMENT anti-androgenic properties; may be useful for PCOS, acne and
excessive testosterone related issues
In cultures such as India and China the medicinal effects of
spices is fully acknowledged, with different spice combinations
used according to season, constitution and complaint
hot flame in the
belly which ‘burns’ (digests) our food
When weak we cannot digest food. It is
increased using warm, aromatic spices such as ginger, cardamom, cumin. This
is the traditional reason for spicy Indian cookery.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
deficient it causes indigestion, loose stools, a swollen, tooth marked tongue and
low energy because food is not assimilated properly
Also treated with warm
aromatic spices such as ginger and cinnamon
Parts used: leaf and flowers
Main actions: antimicrobial, antioxidant, astrigent, antihyperhidrotic
• Throat infections
• Menopausal sweats or excessive sweating
• Poor memory and concentration
• Inhibits lactation
Parts used- leaves
Main actions: circulatory stimulant, carminative, cognition enhancer,
anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, antioxidant
• For gas and bloating and dysbiosis
• Poor circulation
• Poor memory and improves mental performance
• Increases phase 2 liver detoxification
• To prevent free radical damage
Parts used: seeds in herbal medicine, bulb in cooking and salads
Main actions: carminative, galactagogue
• For gas and bloating
• Increases milk production
• Taken by nursing mothers to help infantile colic.