I'm studying a foundational herbal course with Heartwood Education.
Here, i am documenting my study.
Benefits of Herbal medicine
Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people, and can be used in situations that modern pharmaceuticals cannot. For example in pregnancy or for very young children.
We are not just working with cause and effect, a symptom that is remedied by one drug. Effectively someone comes with a few landmarks, and herbalists will have to create the map from those landmarks, to work out the territory we are on. Piecing together different clues and parts of that persons health, diet etc. We are looking at the whole person, not just the ailment, and ask why has this particular person got this particular ailment?
Pharmaceutics drugs are mono chemicals - one active constituent concentrated into a known dose.
Plants have a massive variety of compounds, so pharmaceutical drugs and plants will work in the body in very different ways. It is common for pharmaceuticals have side effects but herbs often don't. Plant complexities can benefit us without the negative effects of high doses of one solitary compound.
Activity: research Types
Research the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, and provide an example:
Qualitative research is based in experience and observation.
We can gather information that helps us to understand a person and their experience, especially information that is difficult to quantify. This information is in-depth and focused around open ended questions and conversation.
Types of research: interviews, open questions, discussions, case studies, questionnaires.
Advantages: person centered and considers the whole, explores why questions, in depth, adaptable to human differences, allows for greater understanding
Disadvantages: difficult to prove anything, time consuming, can be hard to compare and generalise results
What do you think about the taste of Hawthorn berries?
Example answers from 3 participants:
1. I don’t think they really taste of anything, and i don’t like how big the stone is as you don’t get much fruit.
2. I love them! I think they are delicious and i love making hawthorn ketchup, it’s my favourite thing to make when autumn arrives.
3. I think they taste quite nice, I know they are very good for me so maybe that be influencing my answer.
Quantitative research uses data that can be easily translated into numerical statistics.
This can then be applied and measured. We collect human behaviour etc, in a controlled way and turn this into numbers, which can be easily analysed. This data can be used to test theories.
Types of research: polls, closed question surveys, observation recorded as numbers, experiments.
Advantages: time efficient, clear and simple, explores how much/ how many, removes human bias and personal judgement, easy to compare
Disadvantages: misses the bigger picture, assumes a fixed reality, not in depth, removes the human element, simplifies complexity.
How much do you like the taste of hawthorn berries?
Please answer from 1-5 (1: I don’t like the taste at all 5: i love the taste of them)
Example answers from 6 participants:
1, 5, 4, 2, 4, 2
Safety in Herbal Medicine
Some adverse effects reported by those taking herbs are often not to do with the direct actions of the herbs themselves, but beneficial responses in the body. For example excess mucous being produced which may support removing unwanted debris from the body.
People can also experience what is called a ‘healing crisis.’ As the body begins to heal the immune system kicks in and can create adverse effects before starting to improve.
Some herbal medicines have been known to be contaminated, which can be the cause of adverse side effects, for example St Johns Wort being contaminated with Ragwort.
Using the wrong part of a plant is also something that can cause adverse side effects.
Placebo: responding positively to a medicine that is inactive
Focusing on eradicating the placebo effect is an exercise of modern medicine, and once again prevents the 'whole picture' approach. Healing can take place on many levels, biological, psychological, cultural, relational etc.
A meaning response (Daniel Moerman) takes place on a psychological and cultural level. Both receiving a medicine and the relationship between patient and herbalist can impact the outcome of healing just as much as a biological response.
The medical obsession with eradicating placebo therefore attempts to remove a potentially powerful part of any healing journey.
This is especially important to consider in herbal and alternative medicines when people criticise herbal medicine saying that it only works due to placebo effect (all medicine has placebo effect - even modern medicine). Placebo effect has been given a bad name, when actually it can be a crucial part of healing too.
Nocebo: responding negatively to a medicine that is inactive
Nocebo effect has been reported in 'measurable physiological signs such as altered blood test results, not just in reported symptoms’ - our minds and belief systems are powerful and real and impact our health and healing.
Activity: beliefs about drugs:
Take a moment here to think about what we ‘know’ about drugs and how they work. If you were trying to sell a particular drug what things would you take into consideration? List two or three more beliefs that people have about drugs.
Herbal study 1: History, Scope and Philosophy (Part 2)