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What the journalist says about herbal complementary and alternative medicine:

‘Sleeping sound in the belief herbal medicine works’


The ancient art of herbal medicine has long been tainted with associations with new age quacks. But, as MATTHEW JENKIN discovers, there is more to the Western tradition than spells and potions.


Herbal medicines are often the last resort for people when it comes to preventing and treating illness. However, after having a consultation with a professional, I realised the practise offers real help for many. I have suffered from mild insomnia for many years and have tried almost everything for a quick cure. But, apart from prescription drugs and a stiff drink, nothing seemed to work. So, when the chance to see a medical herbalist was offered, I was the first in line.


The consultation with Richard Adams was held at his Practice in Maidenstone Hill, near Blackheath, Greenwich.I was greeted with a smile and a cup of strong, but delicious, liquorice and fennel tea. Mr. Adams was quick to dispel any new age fantasy I might have had about western herbalism. He said: “Herbal medicine covers a broad range of herbal knowledge and my tradition is the European one, dating back to the ancient Greeks.” Because we have western medical training now it’s become known as medical herbalism, to differentiate us from people simply selling herbs in the market.” This name came about in 1864, when the National Institute of Herbal Medicine was formed.” It remains the largest professional body for the UK and Ireland.”Mr. Adams qualified as a medical herbalist from the School of Herbal Medicine or  Phytotherapy, Sussex,  in 1990. As well as running his own practice, he lectures on herbal medicine.


My consultation began like any other visit to a doctor. My pulse and blood pressure were measured and my tongue was inspected. But while questions on both mine and my family’s medical history were unsurprising, Mr. Adams’s exploration of my lifestyle and emotional state was very different. He said: “The herbal medical tradition takes a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment of disease.” Holistic medicine is about integrating the emotional, psychological and even spiritual elements of disease and linking people with the wider world.” This takes a little time and attention.

After a thorough consultation, as well as the familiar scientific diagnosis, Mr. Adams related my problems to the ancient Greek belief in the influence of the four elements on the body and mind. Apparently, the predominance of fire and air means my mind is too busy and energetic – which explains my sleepless nights. Mr. Adams said a mixture of various plants and herbs would help, so I gingerly watched him pour a selection of liquids into a small brown bottle for me to take twice a day. The bitter-tasting liquid was definitely not a spoonful of sugar, nor was it a miracle cure, but for the first time in weeks, I enjoyed a restful night’s sleep. So, in an age when people are increasingly more and more reliant on drugs to cure illnesses, perhaps it is time we once again turned to Mother Nature to soothe our bodies and souls.

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