Guide to Botanical Medicine for Women & 5 Commonly Asked Questions

If you have ever looked into natural remedies for your colds, flu, upset stomachs, chronic conditions, or other ailments, chances are you have come across botanical medicine without even knowing it. It is also called “herbal medicine” or “herbalism,” and has been used for centuries to treat all types of conditions and illnesses.

People often forget that ancient cultures used plant-based remedies as their only cures. They did not have the option to go to the local pharmacy or medicine aisle to find a capsule to alleviate their discomfort. Instead, they identified which herbs, flowers, and other natural elements had healing properties and used those. Modern pharmaceutical companies actually followed their lead, distilling the same compounds from those plants and creating synthetic variations that act in much the same way.

The good news is that botanical medicine still exists — and is thriving — today, and represents a viable alternative or supplement for typical medical treatments. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about this healing modality, plus answer common questions that arise when patients first hear about botanical medicine.

The Basics: Botanical Medicine 101

botanical medicine

The term “botanical” may make you think of flowers and gardens, but the truth is that this form of medicine incorporates various elements of every part of the plant. It is a part of many types of other natural healing modalities for women’s health and beyond, too, including:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Essential oils
  • Herbalism
  • Herbal medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Inidigenous medicine
  • Naturopathic medicine
  • Shamanic medicine
  • Traditional Chinese medicine

Practitioners determine which botanical solution may be best to treat or prevent ailments. The idea is to offer a treatment that does not immediately rely on drugs or other Western offerings, which often come with side effects or can only be taken for short timeframes. Botanical medicine offers solutions for both symptoms and underlying causes, helping the body heal itself.

A Note About Quality

Guide to Botanical Medicine for Women & 5 Commonly Asked Questions | Naturopathic Dr

As with any health or wellness space, it is important to vet your sources before diving into botanical medicine. Not all providers, practitioners, or companies are created equal, and not all offer the highest quality products or services. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Research is Key

You will always want to do your research and ask questions before partaking in a product or service. Reputable providers will welcome your questions and walk you through the answers to ensure you have the data you need to make informed decisions.

Be Discerning

Not all practitioners are qualified to teach about or administer naturopathic or botanical medicine remedies. You will want to look into the qualifications, education, track record, and testimonials of the practitioner you choose before getting started.

Consider Value

Many people prefer to consider price when comparing services, but there is something to be said for valuing the quality over the price tag. The things you do to boost your health and improve your wellness impact how your body will be able to function now and in the future. Your health and wellness is not the place to focus on affordability.

You will want to work with a qualified naturopathic physician before deciding to use herbal medicine. As with any medicinal product, herbal remedies have dosages and can impact the effectiveness of prescribed medications. Always reach out to your primary care provider or qualified naturopathic physician to discuss your interest in wellness through botanical or other natural modalities. 

5 Botanical Medicine-Related FAQs

Guide to Botanical Medicine for Women & 5 Commonly Asked Questions | Naturopathic Dr

Embarking on any new wellness plan to alleviate or treat your current ailments can be both exciting and confusing, and botanical medicine is no different. The following are common questions that often arise when patients first consider whether the modality might be the right option for them:

1. Does botanical medicine have side effects?

It’s important to remember that all medicine may have side effects, which include natural remedies. Every solution has an appropriate dosage depending on the person’s size, gender, current condition, other existing conditions, and myriad other factors. The wrong dosage — or the wrong remedy for the situation — can result in “negative effects such as allergic reactions, rashes, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that can range from mild to severe.” Be sure to follow your naturopathic physician’s recommendations for remedy and dosage to mitigate such factors. 

2. Can you take botanical remedies with prescriptions?

Yes, but with a couple small caveats Certain medications do not mix well with certain organic compounds. For example, select blood pressure medications react poorly when people consume grapefruit. A few herbs should not be taken together. You will want to tell your provider about any medications you are taking to avoid unpleasant interactions.

3. Does botanical medicine work for women’s health concerns?

arrangement of herbal medication in various jar with surrounding flora

Yes! There are many herbs and natural supplements designed specifically to alleviate women’s health issues such as premenstrual cramps, hormone imbalances, stress, anxiety, fertility issues, ovarian conditions like cysts, and more. 

4. Are there conditions that cannot be treated by botanical medicine?

Every person’s health is different, but there are select conditions that should not be treated by botanical medicine alone. Advanced chronic diseases may require conventional medicine in addition to a natural remedy plan, for example. Your naturopathic physician will be able to help you set up the best plan for your situation.

5. How do I get started with botanical medicine?

Your best bet for getting started with any new health regimen is to do your due diligence and find the right provider to assist you along the way. Having the help of a trusted naturopathic doctor will allow you to ask questions, discuss concerns, and have a plan custom created for your wellness goals to ensure you are approaching your health with the best possible solutions — and best possible information — available.

Dr. Karen Threlkel is a naturopathic physician specializing in women’s health conditions and helping her patients achieve optimum wellness through natural remedies. Contact her office to set up an appointment and discuss your holistic medicine options.

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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