Smooth start for herbal medicine course

Thursday 3 March 2005

Handcream helped a new complementary medicine course get off to a smooth start today (Thursday 3 March 2005).

As part of a new module for University of St Andrews medical students – ‘Back To the Future – Better Health Through Functional Foods and Complementary Medicine’ – students helped make a herbal handcream.

Although teaching complementary and alternative medicine within the medical curriculum has been recommended by the General Medical Council, the Bute Medical School is one of the first medical schools in the UK to give students an insight into the techniques involved in the preparation of herbal medicines, together with hands-on experience.

Module organiser Dr Margaret Ritchie said, “Herbal medicine has been used in the treatment of ailments for thousands of years and is now the most popular of all complementary medicines.

She continued, “Approximately 30% of drugs used in disease treatment are derived from plants. Since the stone age, when even the humble cavemen used opium, interest in and use of complementary medicine is increasing.

“However, despite the fact that plant compounds have a valuable role in the prevention and treatment of disease, there are increasing concerns about public safety relating to the use of plant based products, for example the risk of herb/drug interactions. The lack of knowledge about complementary medicines and their actions is a potential problem for clinicians and general practitioners faced with the prospect of treating and managing an ever increasing number of patients who may be using complementary therapies. Our new course for second year students will help address these crucial issues and better prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead”.

The demonstration was part of a lecture on herbal medicine by Ms Jay Mackinnon, Medical Herbalist and Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (MNIMH).

The session introduced the breadth of traditions that use herbal medicine, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Western Herbal Medicine. Western Herbal Medicine was covered in greater depth, examining how herbal medicine is practiced in the UK today, the role of the herbal practitioner in an integrative medical approach and the herbal perspective on some common disorders. The practical session let students test their own knowledge of medicinal plants and plant preparations.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information, please contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or [email protected]; Ref: press releases/handcream View the latest University news at

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