What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

In other words, to be truly healthy, you must be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Unfortunately, in today’s world, that’s become increasingly more difficult.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), six in 10 American adults have a chronic illness. Annual health care costs are at $3.5 trillion dollars a year. 

16.2 million U.S. adults experience a bout of serious depression once a year. 

And one of the key lifestyle risks for chronic disease is a poor diet lacking valuable nutritious superfoods. A poor diet is also linked to higher rates of depression

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to get and stay healthy. That’s with phytotherapy. 

But what is phytomedicine? We’re going to share with you everything you need to know about phytotherapy along with some easy tips on how to get started. 

What Is Phytotherapy?

Phytotherapy is science-based. It’s the practice of using plant-derived mediations to treat and prevent disease. 

Most of us are used to being prescribed pharmaceutical drugs to heal ourselves. But herbal practitioners prefer to use phytomedicine because they’ve done the research and realize it’s myriad benefits. 

Phytotherapy is Ecology in Practice

Medicinal herbalist David Hoffmann defines herbalism as “ecology in practice”. He believes that everything is connected.

This means if one tree is sick then the entire environment suffers because all organisms rely on one another for survival. The herbs are not just for human use and consumption. 

Instead, plants and herbs are a vital part of the health of everything from the soil to the fungi to the insects. The new biology is suggesting that the entire world revolves around mutual support and synergy. 

Phytotherapy is an Ancient Medicinal Practice

Herbal therapy isn’t new, either. The ancient Babylonians, Native Americans, Egyptians, Indians, and Chinese all used medicinal herbs to help them heal and prevent diseases. 

Shen Nung’s “Pen Ts’ao” or “Shennong Ben Cao Jing” (3. 3000 B.C.) is the oldest known list of medicinal herbs. 

Who Introduced the Concept of Phytotherapy

It was French physician Henri Leclerc who first developed the concept of phytotherapy. The term was first used in 1913 but did not become a commonly used English term until 1934 when an English practitioner of homeopathy and herbalism named William Powell introduced it to English speakers. 

Leclerc had a strong focus on what we now know as evidence-based medicine. 

Examples of Phytotherapy

There are many examples of phytotherapy that you may already be familiar with or even use such as:

What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read | Naturopathic Dr

Ginko Biloba

Ginko Biloba can be used to treat disorders of the central nervous system as well as mild cognitive disorders.

It’s also been known to help people with asthma, depression, and even PMS (premenstrual syndrome). 

What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read | Naturopathic Dr

Echinacea Angustifolia

The root of echinacea is known to treat and prevent the common cold.

Echinacea is also used to treat urinary tract infections and topical skin wounds. 

What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read | Naturopathic Dr

African Devil’s Claw

The African devil’s claw (Harpagophytum Procumbens) is used to treat chronic lower back pain. 

Phytotherapy and Aromatherapy

An integral part of herbalism is the use of oils made from herbs to aid with the healing process. Aromatherapy is considered a highly specialized subsection of phytotherapy. Some examples of oils used for phytomedicinal purposes are: 

What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read | Naturopathic Dr


Lavender oil helps heal and calm irritated skin. It also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. 

What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read | Naturopathic Dr


Rosemary is also good for treating skin issues such as:

  • Acne
  • Aging
  • Sun damage

Rosemary also contains calcium, iron, and vitamin B6 which means it also supports healthy collagen levels. 

What is Phytotherapy: The Only Guide You Need to Read | Naturopathic Dr


Cypress oils help heal infections and wounds. This oil also helps support the elasticity of your capillaries. 

Why Seeking Out Phytotherapy is Important to Your Overall Health

Naturopathic doctors look at the patient as a whole and integrated human being. They believe that health is both a positive and active state. 

That means, the practitioner won’t just look at the physical ailment, but will instead focus on the various aspects of their patient’s lives such as:

  • Emotional
  • Mental 
  • Spiritual
  • Social
  • Environmental

Holistic healers also understand and respect each individual’s ability to heal themselves.

An Active Partnership is Formed

Rather than traditional western medicine where the physician often takes the lead and dictates a health protocol for their patient, phytotherapy instead is an active partnership. 

There is also not one right medical way, technique or theory. It instead considers the whole person that includes their:

  • Mental health
  • Emotional health
  • Physical health
  • Quality of life
  • Quality of relationships
  • Social conditions
  • Economic conditions

All of these conditions factor in greatly when it comes to affecting someone’s health negatively. Holistic healers believe that every illness comes with an opportunity for self-discovery. 

The Benefits of Phytotherapy

Besides what we’ve already mentioned, there are several other benefits to phytotherapy such as:


Thankfully, no one can patent a plant. Therefore the costs will never get too astronomical nor will one company ever have a monopoly on a certain plant. 

That means phytotherapy is more cost-effective and affordable than some traditional pharmaceuticals are. 

Fewer Side Effects

There are often some dramatic side effects of pharmaceuticals. In some cases, patients have to go on another pharmaceutical medication to deal with the side effects of the first medication. 

While phytomedicines do have side effects, often they’re very mild and rarely life-threatening. However, always talk to your doctor before you begin taking phytomedicine. 

Natural Healing

You’ll probably never know what’s in most pharmaceutical medications. But you do know and can easily research the natural ingredients that phytomedicines use. 

That lets you truly be in control of what you put into your body. 

Easier to Obtain

You don’t need a prescription to obtain phytomedicines. However, it’s best to buy your phytomedicines through a physician or another trusted resource. 

That way you can ensure you are getting the best quality products possible. 

Learn More About Phytotherapy

Phytotherapy is a natural way to heal your body, mind, and spirit. But first, we need to find out what got you in your current state.

And then we can design a healing plan that’s right for you. To get started schedule your appointment with Dr. Threlkel. 

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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