Objective: To describe the patterns of prescription and dispensing of herbal medicines employed by Western herbal practitioners in Australia.
Design: A national postal survey sent to all full members of the National Herbalist Association of Australia (NHAA).
Setting: Nationwide clinics of professional herbal practitioners in Australia.
Main outcome measures: Measures of medicinal use were collected including aspects of prescription, formulation, dispensing and preparation forms of medicines used. The practitioners were asked if they dispensed their own medicines, about the form of herbal preparations used, aspects of formulation and dosages.
Results: The predominant prescription by most Western herbal practitioners in Australia is individualised herbal formulae rather than the use of single herbs. Traditional preparations of herbals such as teas and powders are used but liquid herbal extracts are most commonly dispensed. These liquid medicines are in the form of highly concentrated fluid extracts in ratios of 1:1 or 1:2, herb material to liquid. Pre-formulated tablets or capsules made by herbal manufacturers are being incorporated into modern practice but most prescriptions are individualised liquid formulae prepared and dispensed, from the clinic dispensary, after patient consultation. In addition to internal prescriptions, topical creams, pessaries, douches, gargles, eyebaths and poultices or washes are still incorporated into treatments. Although there is variation in used dosage ranges, the predominant system is that of pharmacologically active doses of highly concentrated fluid extracts.
Conclusion: The professional prescription of Western herbal medicines is different to commercial usage. As opposed to pre-formulated tablets, or use of single herbals, the vast majority of Western herbalists in Australia construct individualised herbal formulations for their patients after consultation. The preferred form of administration of these prescriptions is as highly concentrated liquid herbal extracts in pharmacologically active doses.