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Su B Scep

‘I’m a bit sceptical about this sort of stuff,’ said my new patient, leaning back in his chair. His wife had persuaded him to come, and it was obvious that winning points in the marital game was going to be far more powerful than anything the herbs could do.

He didn’t show up for his next appointment

What did he mean by ‘this sort of stuff’? Most drugs are derived from plant material, and drug companies are constantly on the lookout for the next ‘cure’ to be found in the Amazon, or the Arctic tundra, or the Sahara desert. Herbs contain measurable amounts of pharmacologically active compounds, which can be extracted and tested in laboratory conditions.

So what is there to be sceptical about?

What he was really saying – apart from ‘I’m not going to admit that my wife might have a good idea’ – was that he was suspicious of ‘complementary’ medicine as a concept. Complementary medicine includes anything not dispensed by doctors, from aromatherapy to ear candles to chakra balancing, and of course, he was quite right to be sceptical about a lot of it. Plenty of things go on in orthodox medicine too, that are not strictly logical or would stand up to scientific scrutiny.

We should be sceptical; we should think it through before we accept any kind of treatment, especially one that promises too much, too soon. But equally, we should be open-minded, willing to accept help, and glad to be surprised when we find it in unexpected places.

Those qualities nourish our sense of wellbeing in the world; and that’s worth more than any amount of medicine, herbal or otherwise.

EDITOR: Sue has an excellent Herb Handbook which can be purchased from Amazon or directly from her website.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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