What is Herbal Medicine?

What is herbal medicine as practiced in Canada today?

Contemporary Herbal Medicine in Canada reflects the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds of our population, emphasizing the use of traditional and modern European herbal medicine, Indigenous First Nations plant medicine, Eclectic 19th century American herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic herbal medicines.  It encompasses the use of herbs from all corners of the world, blending global traditional wisdom passed down through generations and more recent modern scientific understanding of herbs and health.

The  practice of Western Herbal Medicine and its many branches, offer some of the most comprehensive knowledge and practice of natural medicine in the world.  The practice of Western Herbal Medicine draws from historical, theoretical and practical wisdom, allowing plants to assist people with a broad spectrum of health concerns.  Specific areas of knowledge within the practice include, but are not limited to the following.

  • history and philosophy of herbal medicine
  • botany and plant identification
  • taxonomy and nomenclature
  • pharmacognosy and pharmacology of herbs
  • materia medica of plants
  • principles of formulation and prescribing
  • herbal energetics and constitutional assessments
  • dosage and therapeutic applications of herbs 
  • safety and toxicology

Plant medicines are used in various forms, including but not limited to:

  • dried teas
  • extracts and tinctures
  • powders
  • capsules
  • oxymels and syrups
  • aromatherapy
  • flower essences
  • hydrotherapy (herbal baths, herbal steams)
  • as food and nutritional supplements
  • topical applications: liniments, salves, compresses, poultices
  • traditional applications and psycho-spiritual uses

Professional practitioners typically have extensive knowledge of the following:

  • biomedical sciences, anatomy, physiology (from the paradigm in which they are trained) 
  • pathology and symptomatology
  • physical examination  skills  
  • differential assessment
  • constitutional and energetic assessment skills 
  • all aspects of practice management including compounding, herbal formulations, case history taking
  • healing diets and nutritional support
  • experiential clinical practice