Phytotherapy or Herbal Medicine is a worldwide system of medicine which uses plants to prevent and cure disease. Phytotherapy is another name for herbal medicine but usually refers to Western herbal medicine. The use of plants as medicines goes back to time immemorial where small and large groupings of human beings used plants for medicines. There is prehistoric evidence of the use of medicinal plants and it is unlikely that there was ever a time that humans did not use herbal remedies since humankind evolved along with the plant kingdom. The plant kingdom may from a certain evolutionary point of view be seen as a coarser part of human nature that was eliminated in order that humankind could evolve further. These medicinal plants therefore represent one sided tendencies which may explain why they can be used as remedies when a specific tendency occurs again in illness.
There are many traditional herbal systems in existence in the world today. Here in Africa we have our own wealth of traditional medicines and every region has unique plants and remedial compounds known to the herbalists of the area and handed down by forefathers through generations. Other systems have found there way to our shores: European herbal medicine with its origins in Graeco-Roman medicine of Hippocrates and Galen and developed by folk tradition over many centuries, is a widely used and popular herbal system. Other systems commonly used include Chinese Herbal Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine.
At Syringa Integrated Health Centre, herbal remedies from all systems are used within the broad framework of Anthroposophically Integrated Medicine.(AIM). A key principle of AIM is the system correspondence that exists between human beings and plants: The neuro-sensory system is related to the root system of the plant, the rhythmic processes found especially in the cardio-vascular-respiratory systems are connected to the leaf and stem sections of the plant and the metabolic processes in all systems, eg liver, digestive system are related to the flower and fruit parts of the plant. This relationship allows the practitioner to rationally use a remedy taken from the root of a plant to treat an illness of the nerves or sense organs, eg the root of Arnica, or one from the flowers of Chamomile to treat an illness of the digestive system. Thus in the Anthroposophically Medical Herbal System, the part of the plant specifically needed will be used in preparing the herbal remedy. The plant may be one of the African, European, Chinese or Ayurvedic Plant Pharmacopea, but will be used in a specifically anthroposophical way.
The preparation of all herbal remedies require cutting up finely the whole plant or the part of the plant needed and allowing the plant substance to be extracted into alcohol or water over a variable time period. The extract is then filtered and this mother tincture is used in a diluted or undiluted form as the herbal medicine.
Modern phytotherapeutic manufacturers will do strict quality control to ensure optimum levels of active plant substances.