Medical herbalists are often called upon to help in many conditions where assessment reveals that digestive function is below par or that there is a clear pathology within the digestive tract.
Poor digestive function is almost endemic in modern life. In addition to well known syndromes such as irritable bowel and conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, poor digestive function can contribute to many apparently unrelated issues. Inflammatory joint and skin conditions can often find their root cause in poor digestive function.
Many herbs are known to act directly on the digestive tract – bitters for example may stimulate acid and enzyme production, fennel and other aromatic herbs prevent bloating, but this is only part of the story.
The Role of Inflammation
Inflammation also plays a major role in many conditions affecting the digestive tract, and medical herbalists have a synergistic approach to decreasing inflammation. For example there are herbs which act in a similar way to aspirin, herbs that will allow your own body’s cortisol to remain active for longer and therefore ‘spare’ or rest your adrenal glands, and herbs which soothe inflammation by direct contact. Thus when inflammation is part of the problem medical herbalists have many diverse herbs in their dispensaries that they can choose for each individual and unique situation. These different herbs work together in synergy to support the body.
To give an analogy, if you are out in the cold, you could keep warm by wearing an ever thicker coat. This would be the pharmaceutical approach, the thicker coat being more aspirin, or a higher dose of steroids. We all know, however, that the better approach is layering; a base layer to move moisture away from the body, a thermal layer to trap warmth, and an outer layer to protect from the elements. This is analogous to the herbal approach to healthcare.