Last month, the opening of a new practice location at The Trading Post in Caledon Street was celebrated, when the phytotherapists working in Somerset West introduced phytotherapy to the wider community of the Helderberg, and practitoners of different disciplines had an opportunity to meet each other.
Phytotherapy is the South African term for herbal medicine (Phyto is the Greek word for plant).
The use of plants as medicine dates back centuries, and thanks to modern science, many of the actions of these plants can be explained by well- defined pharmacological active constituents.
“Finally, indigenous knowledge is being confirmed by research and plant based medicine can be used safely,” says Dr Sanien de Beer.
“Due to the strong belief in traditional medicine, being a herbalist in South Africa is often still closely associated with sangomas and traditional practices – which is not what phytotherapists do,” she adds.
Phytotherapy is regulated by the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA), and practitioners need to be registered. It is still a very small profession – currently there are only 50 practitioners registered in South Africa, and it is therefore quite unique to have more than one practioner in town, she says.
Herbal medicine can be used to treat both acute and chronic conditions, says Dr De Beer.
After a consultation, individual prescriptions can be formulated for each patient according to their specific needs. Whole plant extracts are used in the form of tinctures, teas, powders, capsules, oils.
“It is essential to take potential drug herbs interactions into consideration when formulating a prescription, to ensure that herbal medicine and allopathic medicine can be safely used together as needed,” she explains.
“Phytotherapists are passionate about working with medicinal plants, and embrace a holistic approach when treating patients. They often work in multi disciplinary teams together with fellow medical and complementary health care practitioners.”
This practice creates an environment where people in the Helderberg Basin can have access to high quality, safe and effective herbal and natural medicine.
On a parting note, Dr De Beer says: “Throughout history it was generally women who had the most knowledge of medicinal plants; possibly because they spend more time foraging in the fields.
“However, as it was unusual for them to be able to read and write, the men wrote down what the women said. This is one of the reasons why hwerbalists throughout the centuries were mainly males.”
For more information, visit
www.herbalpractitionerssa.co.za, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 082 615 8284 or 072 355 8356.