Your Health, Your Choice

When I tell people that I am a Medical Herbalist, they are either intrigued and want to know more, or view me with extreme suspicion (possibly in case I cast a spell on them – not that I know any spells and if I did I would not know what to do with them!). 

There is often an assumption that I must be “anti-doctors” and that instead, I treat people by plucking some plants out of my garden and doing something magical with them. None of which is true.

Sadly, there is still very much an “us and them” approach to Natural Medicine, with an assumption that we hate doctors and doctors hate us.

There are people who work in Natural Medicine who feel like this and I am pretty sure that there are doctors who feel the same way, but it isn’t (and shouldn’t) always be like this.

I have respect for doctors.  I couldn’t work the hours that many of them work, under restrictive conditions and trying to help people in an underfunded service with dwindling resources.

If I were to be involved in an accident, or required an operation then I would be very glad of the ability of my doctors and other hospital staff; however, if I had a long term illness that was not responding to orthodox medicine, or those medicines were affecting me, then lifestyle changes and complementary medicine might be of huge benefit in supporting me.

Complementary therapy is different from Alternative Therapy. The clue is in the names. We do not need an “Alternative” to orthodox medicine and healthcare.  It denotes that orthodox medicine is wrong or ineffective.  In comparison, complementary healthcare works in tandem to orthodox medical care and can be safely embedded within a patients’ treatment plan, hopefully with the approval of doctors.

The importance of this protocol was an integral part of my training.  We had 500 clinic hours observing and treating patients, which involved clinical examinations and differential diagnosis.  We had to submit Clinical Reports, sit examinations in Drug/Herb interactions and spotting red flags  – all of which were scrutinised because, ultimately our patient’s safety is everything.

If you choose to seek help from a Natural Health Practitioner, then they should offer to explain to your doctor what they are helping you with and how – although this should only be done with your permission – and they should be able to work alongside any medication that you have to take.  There may be a point in the future when, following Natural Healthcare, your body has healed enough for you to be able to withdraw from orthodox drugs, but this should be a safe procedure.  If your Natural Health Care Practitioner tells you that Doctors are rubbish and you should throw your medication away – then they are the enemy – not your Doctor!

I love the word “empowered” and I frequently use it with my patients.  I don’t like the idea of passing something as important as my health to someone else and expecting them to give me the answers and drugs that will “sort it out”.  I like my patients to take ownership of their condition, understand it and know how it can best be supported.  After all, it is their health and their journey.

Some conditions are so serious that they need pharmaceutical drugs, but can be complemented by Natural Healthcare so that side effects are minimised and underlying conditions are supported; however, there are also many conditions that are a huge drain on an already overstretched NHS and would respond beautifully to Natural Healthcare and lifestyle support alone.

I agree with having a healthy wariness of pharmaceutical drugs.  There is no sense in keep taking something that is not achieving results, that is potentially addictive and causes side effects that are possibly dangerous.

Your GP is only able to spend 15 minutes with you.  That’s not their fault – it’s the way it is.  They have to treat your symptoms to stop you from feeling ill.  For some problems, this will be sufficient, but for others, it is beneficial to look at why you got ill in the first place and identify the root cause. 

For example, if you have high blood pressure, then your GP is likely to suggest medication to reduce your blood pressure so that your heart isn’t under so much strain.  This doesn’t address WHY your blood pressure is high and the underlying reason for the increase in your blood pressure could well trigger other conditions, regardless of any medication that keeps your blood pressure regulated.

Our consultations last around 90 minutes and in that time we are able to get a very comprehensive picture of your physical and emotional health, so that we can offer support that in turn could help to reduce the strain on the NHS.  It allows you the time to fully understand your condition and how it affects you and what changes you can make to best support your condition.

For some individuals, this is of no interest.  They want their GP to give them something that will be a quick fix – and that is fine; as long as it is their choice and they KNOW that there are other things that could be done IF THEY WANT TO DO THEM.  It is, after all, a life style choice – and individuals should have choice in their healthcare.  We should not be dictated to, or led to believe that anyone in any healthcare sector is above their patient.  There should always be informed choice.

Jane Sanderson

November 2019

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