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.

The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempt should be made to cure the body without the soul and if the head and the body are to be healthy, you must begin by curing the mind, for this is the greatest error of our day in the treatment of the human body that physicians first separate the soul from the body.

Plato 429 – 347 BC

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
“If you have health, you probably will be happy, and if you have health and happiness, you have all the wealth you need, even if it is not all you want. “


I have been qualified as a pharmacist for over forty years and during the course of practising my profession, I have realised how the culture of over-prescribing medicines, driven by a powerful pharmaceutical industry has lead to terrific side effects in terms of  unnecessary suffering, hospital admissions and fatalities, the latter often not recorded on the death certificate as the cause of death.

As a result of this, I decided to engage on a road to training in holistic health using my salary as a pharmacist to fund it. I was determined to  treat the cause of disease and educate people on health promotion and disease prevention, rather than just treating symptoms with what I can only describe as a chemical assault by the majority (but by no means all) of the medical profession. I wanted to do this holistically realising the inter-relationship of body, mind and spirit. I started off studying and qualifying in counselling, massage, homeopathy and aromatherapy and then realised the power of plants in the healing journey. I studied flower essences and their role in emotional healing and became a member of the British Flower and Vibrational Essence Association (BFVEA) and the same time started to study herbalism.

I have studied on a number of herbal courses before finally becoming a member of the International Register of Consultant Herbalists and Homeopaths. I would like to recommend their course of study for a variety of reasons-

1. The course is student centred and students can proceed at their own pace in their own space but with much support from tutors and other students. The flexibility of the course allows students to fit it with their other life commitments and financial situation.

2. The IRCH  herbalism course is the only one I know which captures the soul, art and science of treating people with herbs, diet and lifestyle changes bringing it all together in the traditional ,person centred, holistic and a very practical and thorough clinical practice.

3. It is the best herbal course for treating the 21st century patient who is subject to the increasing de-personalisation of technology, bureaucracy, stress and target driven competition in work , social isolation and a breakdown of empathy, community and family support.

B. Draper

If you are interested in finding out more about the IRCH and its unique course, please contact us for a full prospectus.

The IRCH is a fully accredited member of IADL International Association for Distance Learning