The History and Politics of Herbal Medicine
The practice of naturopathic and herbal medicine has a recorded history reaching back over five millennia. Over time, the knowledge of the art and science became both refined and expanded through the practice and observation of the healing art, thus creating an extensive cannon of knowledge, based on empirical evidence. It is quite understandable that those, whose knowledge gave them the gift of healing, became accredited with mystic powers, which were sometimes perceived as a potential threat to the thrones of power of the time. The challenge to control knowledge and the independence and power of self-determination it brings gave rise to the Cartesian divide, which in turn became the dehumanised foundation of reductionist science. This, in turn gave rise to the allopathic practice we see around us today in mainstream “medicine”.
The challenge that traditional medicine has continually posed to approved academia is one that has resonated through the centuries. Henry VIII’s own benefit from herbal medicine is reputed to have given rise to his Royal Charter to defend traditional herbalists from their persecution by the “pharmaceuticalists” of the day. This legal instrument has continued to protect the practice and continued development of Traditional Herbal Medicine across the centuries.
In the mid-twentieth century, the pharmaceutical industry led faction made another attempt to repress the practice of traditional medicine in defence of its own shortcomings. The ensuing public outcry gave rise to the subsequent provisions in the 1968 Medicine Act, again enshrining in law the protection already granted by the former royal protector of the nation, its people and their rights.
The treasures of Traditional Herbal Medicine have been protected by all herbalists who, in the spirit of Nicholas Culpepper, have protected the traditional practise and philosophy of natural medicine in the face of adversity throughout the ages. Despite this, there have been those who have sought to diminish, betray and sacrifice the art, for the sake of acceptance by allopathic practitioners of pharmacology in the NHS. This aberrant faction campaigned for the statutory regulation of the profession under regulations, which would have redefined herbal medicine to the point where it would have ceased to exist. To promote this destructive policy, practitioners and public alike were encouraged to believe that, without this retrogressive step, future practice would not be possible. A dark spectre concerning issues of imagined “recognition” or its lack were raised, to alarm and confuse both those in practice, as well as those planning to join this healing art.
Despite the expenditure of huge amounts of money and the engagement of a government lobbying company in promotion of the betrayal, this phantasm has been exorcised, with the continuing right to practised again enshrined in the 2012 Human Medicines Act 2012, section 6. Under the provisions of the Act, herbalists continue to have the right to dispense their prescriptions to patients after a face to face consultation, with the practitioner formulating the prescription in the traditional manner. Students of the IRCH are taught to prescribe and prepare herbal remedies in line with traditional philosophy and practice, within the continued legal protection of the Medicine Act.
The International Register of Consultant Herbalists and Homeopaths is proud of the part it has played to protect this historic right.