Liquorice for stress? A cup of tea for insomnia? Josh Barrie finds out more about nature's power in West Wickham
Long before the joys of antibiotics and the wonders of Day Nurse (other flu medication is available), humankind busily collected herbs, plants, and nature’s many other offerings to treat illnesses.
As medicines progress and evolve we’ve become increasingly reliant on pharmaceutical drugs to cure our ailments. But people have been resorting to more historic means in recent times, such as chamomile tea to aid sleep, and passion flower to ease issues such as anxiety or nervousness.
Gina Webley, 58, is a medical herbalist in West Wickham and a strong believer in "traditional" methods. Although she says modern treatments certainly have a place, she explained herbal remedies should not be ignored - especially for "internal", "chronic" conditions.
She explains: "Herbal medicine is as old as the hills and has been used since the beginning of time.
"With the development of pharmaceutical drugs, herbal medicine became less popular but this is now changing.
"We are seeing the limitations of many such drugs and many people are looking for an effective but gentler and natural form of treatment with few side effects to achieve health and wellbeing."
She said imbalances in our bodies such as insomnia, stress, and allergies are often best combated by natural substances. But she also mentioned many still don’t seem to know much about them, while others remain cynical about their use.
"I’m not against new methods and techniques, but herbal medicine can be effective," she said.
"Lots of people just don’t know about it - and it can really help."
On Thursday I went along to one of Ms Webley’s hour-long consultations at her office in Beckenham Road.
Going through a "case history" she asked about my diet, my general health and significant past events, and also took my blood pressure - which was low, apparently.
Without going into details of all the problems I may or may not have, Ms Webley prescribed me with various herbs, teas, and extracts of things more likely found in a garden than a hospital. Admittedly, the idea of ‘Siberian ginseng tea’ and ‘liquorice’ sounded far more appealing than ‘milk thistle’ and ‘valerian’.
Had I taken on what Ms Webley prescribed, she would have then prepared a tincture of ingredients, which would be taken with a drop of alcohol - or alternative methods if necessary - twice daily.
Before qualifying with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, Ms Webley worked as a researcher at London Zoo, and later as a biology lecturer at Bromley College. She set up last year and said although things have started slowly, "a growing interest in using herbal medicine" is continuing.
June 21-29 marks National Herbal Medicine Week where Ms Webley will be offering a free consultation. See ginawebleyherbalist.com.