Herbal Medicine, sometimes more scientifically called "phytotherapy", is the practice of using medicinal herbs to treat a variety of ailments and to bring the body back to a state of health and balance.
It can be used complementary to other treatments or on its own. With an array of remedies from gentle to potent it is effective at treating long-standing chronic conditions as well as the acute, such as facilitating post-surgery healing or the common cold. The advantage in herbal medicine lies in its complexity. In each plant there are hundreds, if not thousands of compounds present that affect the body in a symbiotic manor. In even the most widely studied medicinal herbs, there are only a handful of compounds considered "active", meaning that it has a desired effect in the body. However, it is often the case that the plant with or without it's proposed active part will still exhibit this effect. It is because of the array of constituents pieced together in each plant in the perfect complimentary patterns that only nature can provide, that each herb has such a wide scope of medicinal properties.
"Phytotherapy" or "Herbal Medicine"?
Herbal medicine, or medical herbalism, is our oldest form of medicine and it is still used today by a vast percentage of the world's population. Western herbal medicine today draws on extensive traditional knowledge reaching back since before written records, as well as scientifically proven treatments (the two often overlapping). Phytotherapy is a term that emerged relatively more recently with the resurgence of herbal medicine in the UK. Literally meaning plant-therapy, it was coined by medical herbalists as they moved toward a more a scientific approach, separating them somewhat from the eclectics; a movement born in the 19th Century United States. Because this field is an unregulated profession, there is no official separation between the terms 'phytotherapist', 'herbalist', 'herbologist', 'natural therapist', and so forth, therefore the terms are often used interchangeably.