Medical herbalist Nicola Parker can work with your GP to ease the fear of health issues.

Nicola was trained by herbalists that worked within and alongside primary care and while their medicines are traditional their approach is modern.

Thursday, 29th October 2020, 12:30 pm

Getting an appointment with your doctor isn’t as easy as it was pre Covid. Non-urgent operations are being cancelled or postponed. Frustratingly, although most of us understand the need for current measures, many people have been left anxious, uncomfortable or in no small amount of pain.

Doctors were already overworked, with mere minutes per appointment to assess, diagnose and prescribe medication. In my clinic, appointments take up to an hour in complicated cases, so I’ve a huge amount of respect and sympathy for GPs who are consistently pressed for time.

A question arising between herbalists at the moment is whether we can fill some of these gaps left in our healthcare system. Practitioners of Western Herbal Medicine are trained to use the same diagnostic methods recognised within the NHS. A practitioner of this type of herbal medicine will usually call themselves a medical herbalist, and will often be a member of a group such as NIMH (National Institute of Medical Herbalists) or CPP (College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy).

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Medical herbalist Nicola Parker

This is the discipline I chose to train in, because I’m a big advocate of herbal medicine being used alongside primary care. We’re trained to examine the patient the way your doctor would, to read blood tests, to understand what symptoms signal alarm and when to send our patients back to their doctor because further tests are necessary. We’re happy to liaise with your GP, to write to them when necessary and we understand how to use herbs safely alongside your medication. Knowing our limitations and knowing what we can treat safely is part of our training.

Considering the times, when many are avoiding hospitals, doctor’s surgeries or being offered phone consults without physical examinations, perhaps it’s time to widen our approach to healthcare.

For many people local to my clinic, this is the norm. They’ll pop by to ask my advice about an unusual rash, a snotty cold, a sudden period of anxiety, a hormone issue or an old ache in their knee that’s becoming bothersome. Some want to know if it’s something they can help themselves with before burdening their doctor while others just want to stay away from medication or surgery for as long as possible.

Now, especially in recent months, the reasons for these visits are often based on fear. Fear of Covid, fear appointments aren’t available, fear they can’t be or haven’t been examined. Fear that the surgery on that knee has been cancelled and walking is becoming increasingly difficult. Addressing this fear has become a large part of my job.

For example, I’ve helped people with skin problems that they couldn’t get anyone else to look at. One lady had varicose vein surgery scheduled, to help manage the sore, itchy skin around her lower legs. When this was cancelled, she feared she’d be living with it indefinitely and was delighted to hear that I work with herbs to strengthen the veins, as well as address the sore skin directly.

For joint pain, we have a multitude of topical and oral remedies that can make a significant different to mobility. In the past, we’ve been able to help a lady who couldn’t raise her arms above her head to wash her hair, a man who couldn’t walk without sticks and another who was kept awake by his carpal tunnel syndrome. In all three of these cases, the patient cancelled their surgery because of the success of their herbal treatment.

In addition to this, we offer sublingual B12 for those who can’t get injections, ear wax softeners for people who can’t get their ears syringed and a multitude of other things. If your routine appointments are cancelled, your local herbalist may be able to offer an alternative until they are reinstated.

I was trained by herbalists that worked within and alongside primary care and while our medicines are traditional, I can assure you that our approach is modern. The National Institute of Medical Herbalists can direct you to a suitably qualified practitioner. If we can help, we will and if we can’t we’ll always fight to make sure you’re in the capable hands of a doctor who can.

For more information or to make an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.