Description of a Session
Integrative treatment is a general medical assessment that looks at the whole person body, mind and spirit. In this way other therapies like massage, aromatherapy, chiropractic manipulation or osteopathic manipulation etc. are considered as complements to botanical choices or even used first because they are better solutions. Some people use botanical medicine as an alternative to conventional prescriptive options without considering other options like life style modification, diet modification or stress reduction before going to a botanical treatment. You may want to consider these options first before additional options (like botanical medicine) are implemented. If one decides to use botanical medicine, looking for a knowledgeable practitioner to work with (physician, osteopathic physician, naturopathic physician, herbalist, pharmacist) is important.
Course of Treatment
As mentioned earlier, botanical effects often take more time. A practitioner usually allows two months before advising patients of an assessment. Generally patients are asked to see their practitioner about a month later to see how things are going. Patients should call if they have questions concerning odd effects they are noticing. The frequency of visits is highly variable depending on the individual needs of the person.
Anything taken (swallowed) or used topically (on the skin) has the possibility of a side effect. Side effects can be idiosyncratic (unpredictable and highly specific to the individual) or commonly known. Working with your primary care health practitioner or pharmacist can be useful. As a general rule, it is advisable for patients to work with medical practitioners in learning about known interactions of herbal products with conventional medicines and other herbal products that they may be taking.
The Dietary Health and Supplement act of 1994 (DSHEA) was the landmark legislation which defined the legal status of herbs in the American market place. Unlike prescriptive medications botanical preparations, vitamins, amino acids and minerals were classified as dietary supplements, i.e., as foods. Under this regulation manufacturers can make general statements on their labels about an herbs effect on the bodys function (this is called a structure and function claim) but can not make specific health claims (like prevents heart disease). Furthermore, while the FDA requires drug companies to conduct controlled studies to prove efficacy, the herbal manufacturers have no such obligations. The unfortunate result of this situation is the production of many products that contain misleading information or can be ineffective. Rather than relying on medical advice from your health store clerk, work with your primary care physician and pharmacist to assist you in selecting herbal products and other dietary supplements.
Tips for Buying a Quality Herbal Product or Supplement
|Know why you are choosing an herbñresearch before hand in botanical reference texts what medical information has been discovered on the herbal product and its use in various medical conditions. Discuss the results with your physician or pharmacist or health care practitioner as many herbs and supplements interact with one another and with prescriptive medications.|
|Choose standardized products. Buying standardized products is one way to guarantee that an herbal product contains what it is supposed to in the amounts sufficient to produce the desired effect. The term standardized on the label means the herbs active principles have been identified or that compounds identified as active markers for general activity are tested and assured to be contained in the product. For example, gingko (Gingko biloba) used for treatment of some kinds of dementia is standardized to contain flavone glycosides. Currently, standardization is done voluntarily by manufacturers rather than by an outside regulating body. Therefore the best assurance that the numbers on the label are correct is to buy from a reputable company. In the case of some herbs (like echinacea ñ for example) it is not fully understood which constituents make it effective. In this case, a standardized product may not be available. Although the choice of a standardized product is not an absolute guarantee, if a company is willing to test for and assure that a particular active ingredient can be found in its product it is more likely that the company is concerned with product quality.|
|Look for the Latin name of the herbal product on the label. Common names of plants have lead to improper collection of the wrong variety of plant, the unfortunate consequence being that the consumer has bought an ineffective and mislabeled botanical product. The identification of plants by their Latin name defines the precise variety of plant gathered or cultivated.|
|Choose a reputable company ñ Choosing a reputable product is not impossible but takes some detective work. In general unlike the U.S., companies which sell products to Europe (especially Germany) are more apt to produce a quality product, as there exist strict government standards for botanical products. In general, larger companies whose reputations are well established or provide written material that explains their manufacturing processes are probably more reliable. As conditions change checking with organizations like The American Botanical Council or The Herb Research Foundation to assist you would be helpful.|
|Choose fresh or stable products ñ Check the expiration date on all botanical products to make sure they are not out-dated. Make sure the products are not oxidized. In general, products stored in opaque, air-tight containers will remain fresher and therefore more potent. Stay away from loose bulk herbs unless you know the source very well.|
Other Modalities That Work Well With Herbal Medicine
Therapies that work in combination with botanical medicine are highly individualized. Modalities which do not involve taking more supplements orally are probably less confusing to the body. However, nutrition is an oral therapy that may enhance botanical activity if the individual is nutritionally depleted. Partnering with your primary care health care practitioner is the best way to decide what other modalities help. Keeping a health log to track your health can be a great aid in making future plans toward this end.