Although Steven Foster’s breakdown of the statistics regarding British doctors’ knowledge of herbs can be disheartening, don’t lose hope. Physicians are not herbalists, after all. And simple plant medicine is showing up, at least anecdotally, in the modern clinic. Aloe in burn units, clove oil at the oral surgeon, oatmeal advice from the cardiologist—these are just some examples of the ways we here at The Herb Companion have personally seen plant medicine advocated by the mainstream medical community. In What Do Doctors Know About Herbs?, Michael Castleman explains how he has seen doctors (including his wife) become aware of the efficacy of herbal remedies. We all want appropriate health care—medical attention that is calibrated to the specific problem. Herbs can help with that aim. But how can you talk to your doctor about using herbs as part of a comprehensive health plan? Here are some tips:
1) Choose the Right Doctor
Go grassroots: It can be difficult to find a doctor who knows their stuff and who connects with you. But ask around. Perhaps friends have had a good experience with a particular doctor. Maybe your herbalist can recommend a physician they have worked with personally or professionally. Start there.
2) Ask About Specific Herbs
Whether you have a rapport with your doctor or not, it never hurts to ask specifically, “What do you think of trying X herb?” It is important to always let your doctor know you want to use an herb, especially if you are already using prescription medications. If they don’t have objections, but need more info, move on to the next step.
3) Present Research
Gather information about medicinal herbs you are interested in and discuss with your doctor. Sometimes doctors are interested, but uninformed (and too busy for research). Research herbs or conditions in our archives at www.herbcompanion.com, or by checking the German Commission E reports and the American Botanical Council’s updates on scientific studies on herbs at www.herbalgram.org.
Allison Martin is managing editor of The Herb Companion.