An Herbal Contribution to Preventive Medicine

Balance and harmony are the key to successful preventive medicine, bringing us back to the ideas proposed at the beginning of this chapter. There must be clear and free flow of energy through the various aspects of the individuals life. Thus highlighting a range of issues must be addressed that go beyond the way herbal medicine can transform metabolic and physiological processes.


  • Nutrition must be of a quality that enables the body to create itself in a way that ensures health & wholeness.
  • Structural factors must be addressed, by skilled practitioners if this is indicated but also through appropriate exercise, dance or any enjoyable expression of the physical vehicle.
  • A conscious and free flowing emotional life is fundamental to achieving any inner harmony. This does not mean that all patients must get involved in depth psychology, but that attention be given in the appropriate form to that individuals emotional needs.
  • Mental factors are crucial as we are what we think! The bible says that without vision the people die. Without a personal vision, life becomes a slow process of degeneration & decay. and attention to issues around self-image, personal purpose etc.
  • Some openness to spirituality in its various forms is vital. This may take the form of the upliftment of a sunset, being touched by poetry or art, belief in a religion or a dogma free joy in being alive.


The plant kingdom offers much for the therapist interested in prevention. The key is not so much in specific remedies but in an understanding of the role of herbal actions in maintaining health and correct physiological activity. With the insights that the bio-medical model provides about bodily homeostasis, it should be clear that herbs used the right way will support the bodies own process of maintaining a stable internal environment. A number of actions and herbal processes should be considered when formulating a program of preventative medicine

  • The concept of system affinity highlights the possibility of nourishing and toning the whole of a systems form & functioning without eliciting a specific physiological or bio-chemical response. The primary system tonics are listed below.
  • Bitter tonics as a group will have a generalized toning effect as described in that section.
  • Immune support may be important.
  • Cleansing and detoxification can be gently facilitated through herbal support of the eliminatory systems of the body as described below.


Do not worry that all of this might seem like adding procedure upon procedure. A review of the each procedure will show how much they are mutually supportive. Similarly the application of secondary action and system affinity concepts, it is apparent that there is much overlap of herbs common to these various procedures. To summarize the commonly used system tonics in European and North American phytotherapy :

  • Cardio-Vascular : Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), Garlic (Alliumsativum), Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
  • Respiratory : Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), Elecampane(Inula helenium)
  • Digestive : No one herb will be an all round tonics, with the possible exception of Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Consider the bitters, then any appropriate action.
  • Liver : Bitters, Milk Thistle (Carduus marianum), hepatics.
  • Urinary : Buchu (Barosma betulina), Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylosuva-ursi)
  • Reproductive : For women, Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and other Uterine Tonics; for men, Saw Palmetto (Sabel serranoa) or Damiana(Turnera diffusa).
  • Nervous : Oats (Avena sativa), Skullcap (Scutellariaspp.), St.John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum).
  • Musculo-Skeletal : Celery Seed (Apium graveolens), Nettles(Urtica dioica).
  • The Skin : Cleavers (Galium aparine), Nettles (Urticadioica), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

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