In other words, they are not designed simply to alleviate symptoms but also to restore the body's natural state of balance so that it can deal with the underlying cause of the symptoms.
This effect is achieved by careful selection of the appropriate remedies, bearing in mind not only the important active ingredients but also the plant's secondary components, which play a role in the healing process.
Consulting a herbalist
The fact that herbalism is a holistic therapy means that a practitioner will need a great deal of information before deciding how to treat a particular individual. It is very likely that, as well as prescribing remedies, the herbalist will give you advice about a healthy diet and any other lifestyle changes that may be needed to improve your general wellbeing.
It is important to tell a herbalist who is treating you about any other medication you are currently taking, whether on prescription or bought over the counter, as some remedies may interact with orthodox medicines.
Equally important, you should make sure that any doctor treating you knows that you are already taking or are intending to take a particular herbal remedy. If you decide to treat yourself rather than consult a trained herbalist, it is a wise precaution to consult your GP if you have a long-standing condition and/or are currently taking any medication prescribed by him or her.
Take with care
Just because a remedy is herbal, does not mean it cannot have strong effects - in fact many of our strongest poisons come from plants. There have been a number of alerts about the safety of herbal medicines recently.
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists, which represents 550 qualified herbalists, has expressed its concern at the quality of some over-the-counter herbal remedies, pointing out that they may contain the wrong balance of ingredients or higher concentrations of chemical extracts.
Find a herbalist
National Institute of Medical Herbalists