As both a nutritionist and a medical Phytotherapist I am not surprised that many people are not familiar with the term “Phytotherapist”. Most Canadians have heard of herbalists (usually conjuring up images of hippies in Birkenstocks with flowers in their hair or cannabis dispensaries). But we are so much more than people think!
There are herbalists, certified herbalists and then medical Phytotherapist. We come in a wide range. I’m sure this seems confusing to most people, so for the point of this article I will briefly discuss what each one does.
A herbalist is one who studies herbs and treat patients using plant-based remedies and other alternative treatments (homeopathy, essential oils, aromatherapy etc.) An herbalist can be self-taught, apprenticed or formally trained and certified. Herbal remedies can be used to improvement or support digestive, respiratory, circulatory, immune, endocrine, and nervous system processes. Herbs can also be used to remove toxins from cells or topically to healing the skin. Herbs are a more gentle and natural approach to our system than pharmaceuticals. That said, we live in a world where we do need pharmaceuticals at times, but herbs can be a beautiful compliment or even the main form of healing.
Let’s start with a simple break down of the word “Phyto” meaning “of a plant; relating to plants” and “therapist” meaning “a person skilled in a particular kind of therapy”. “Phytotherapy is the study of the use of extracts of natural origin as medicines or health-promoting agents. These practitioners can also branch off into more specific plant healing medicines such as Chinese Medicine, First Nations Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine or Western Medicine. Each modality studies specific the plants used for healing in their sphere of knowledge.
A medical phytotherapist is a phytotherapist who has had medical training as well as phytotherapy. This group of phytotherapists have taken College/University level courses which include the sciences such as: anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, phytochemistry, western pharmacology, herbal therapeutics, patient care. Their training is longer and academically focused. They are certified and can go one to do their Masters in Phytotherapy. Medical Phytotherapy is very common in the United Kingdom as well as other parts of the world. North America is slowly becoming aware of the validity and importance of herbal medicine in our culture. Our First Nation people have been practicing this form of healing for centuries.
As a medical phytotherapist (Graduate of Pacific Rim College of Alternative Medicine) I remind patients to search out a qualified “herbalist or phytotherapist”. It is your right to ask about their training, education and certification. Your health and wellbeing are important. Ask if they are registered with the Canadian Herbal Association of BC (CHABC) or The Canadian Council of Herbalist Associations (CCHA).
In my own practice I have a respect for western medical treatments when necessary. However, I believe the first line approach to health and healing should always come from proper nutrition, exercise, stress management, proper sleep and herbs. This will create a healthy balance within the human body. Remember disease is often just that….”dis” “ease”, living out of balance! If you are “out of balance” I would invite you to book an appointment to come and see me at SEVA Wellness Clinic. Together we can make a difference in your life!