Phytotherapeutics are medicines that utilize as active ingredients only plants, parts of plants or plant materials, or combinations thereof, in raw or processed state. The NatuurApotheek applies the ESCOP definition for phytotherapeutics, which is in accordance with the principles set in the Glossary for "Quality of Herbal Remedies", in "The rules governing medicinal products in the European Community Vol III Guidelines on the quality, safety and efficiency of medicinal products for human use "(ISBN 92-825-9619). In addition, among plant materials are also reckoned: juices, sorts of gums, fatty oils, volatile oils, and any other substance of this nature. Also, phytotherapeutics can have auxiliary substances in addition to active ingredients. Further, chemically defined, isolated components are not considered to be phytotherapeutics. Even drugs, which contain plant materials and/or compounds of medicinal plants, in combination with chemically defined substances are not considered as phytotherapeutics by the ESCOP and the NatuurApotheek.
Many herbal preparations are mistakenly called homeopathic medicines. Essential in the preparation of homeopathic remedies, which are often made of plant material, is potentiation (dilution and shaking). Vegetable preparations which will not be potentiated and administered in hardly or not any diluted form, can be divided further into nutritional supplements or phytotherapeutics. Phytotherapeutics work just like a (chemical) medicine via molecules which bind with molecules of the body of the patient. Phytotherapeutics thus are botanicals, but not necessarily harmless.
There is still a widespread misconception that natural medicines are harmless. Strange really, because everyone knows that many plants are poisonous. Still, it increasingly seems that phytotherapeutics work milder than conventional medicines, but they should still be treated as ordinary medicines. So also with safe preparations one should be watching for side effects, habituation and dependence. There is often confusion between phytotherapeutics (under medicine legislation) and food supplements (under the Food and Drugs Act).
Western herbs are also used in Chinese medicine (TCM) as described by Jeremy Ross in his book: "Combining herbs and Western and Chinese Medicine". Click here for more information.