Western herbal medicine  

Herbal medicine is the use of plant-based medicines to promote good health and treat illness. It aims to improve the function of key body systems to restore a balanced state of health. These include the digestive system, immune system, hormonal (endocrine) organs, skin and urinary system.

Herbal medicines can be used in a wide range conditions. They can be used alone or alongside orthodox medicine and other therapies. They may help improve mood, relieve tension, aid sleep, increase energy and sense of well-being.

How does herbal medicine work?

Herbal medicines act in a similar way to using plants as food – they nourish and sustain the body as well as treating illness. Treatment is tailored to the individual, by assessing aspects of diet, lifestyle and behaviour which may contribute to the illness and where necessary, a herbal prescription.

Herbal medicine is very safe when prescribed by a competent practitioner with good medical and herbal knowledge using medicines from a reputable source.

About the service

The service is led by a medically qualified consultant physician and pharmacist with additional qualifications in herbal medicine.

What should I expect when I come to my appointment?

The first appointment will take 40 minutes. The doctor will take a detailed medical and dietary history.  They will do a physical examination and order any necessary investigations such as blood tests or scans. Follow-up appointments take around 20 minutes and are usually one to three months after your first appointment. The doctor may adjust your medication at these appointments.

Herbs generally work more slowly than orthodox drugs and may take from a few weeks to months to have a significant effect. Your doctor will talk to you about how much significant benefit you can expect before the start of treatment. How successful the treatment is will depend on your general health and the type and severity of the condition.

Your herbal medicine

This will usually consist of a bottle of alcohol-based tinctures, with up to five different herbs mixed together.  Patients who are not able to have alcohol cannot be treated with these tinctures, however in some cases tablets or capsules are available.

Herb interactions with orthodox medicines

Some herbs, such as St. John’s Wort can
affect your regular medicines. Your doctor will ask you about all the medicines you are taking to avoid this happening.

What conditions can be treated?

It is effective for the following conditions:

  • Functional dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Back pain and osteoarthritis
  • Depression
  • Migraine
  • Some forms of acute infections including the common cold, acute sinusitis, uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections, and influenza types A and B.

What conditions cannot be treated?

Conditions unlikely to respond to herbal medicine alone include:

  • Cancer (unless to improve general wellbeing)
  • Weight loss
  • Vitiligo (loss of skin pigment)
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease and other degenerative nervous system diseases
  • Psychiatric problems, such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder


Professional education and training

The RLHIM is also a teaching hospital and from time to time other healthcare professionals may observe in outpatient clinics as part of a training course. We will always ask your permission for students to sit in during your consultation. You do not have to have students present if you would prefer not to.

Your appointment

If you are unable to attend your appointment please let us know at least 48 hours beforehand so we can offer your appointment to someone else. If you do not attend your appointment without telling us we may refer you back to your GP.
Following your treatment you will be referred back to your GP.

 Contact details

Western herbal medicine
Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine
Western Herbal Medicine
60 Great Ormond Street
London
WC1N 3HR

Patient enquiries
Telephone: 020 3448 2000

GP enquiries
Telephone: 020 3448 2000
Fax: 020 3448 2004
Email: rlhimpatients@uclh.nhs.uk (not for referrals)

Service manager - Loretta Chinwokwu
Email: rlhimpatients@uclh.nhs.uk (not for referrals)