Medical herbalist Margaret Noonanusingherbs to get to the root of the problem
Herbal medicine has been used for thou-sands of years and yet most people still only use it as a last resort when everything else has failed. This is a mindset which medi-cal herbalist, Margaret Noonan is hoping to change with her new practice in Fermoy.
Originally from Bal-lyduff Upper, but living in Kilworth, Margaret explained that herbal medicine treats the prob-lem without all of the side effects, being safe and non-habit forming.“Herbs are effective and subtle without being intrusive,” she added.While there is now a course in herbal medi-cine in CIT, when Mar-garet was in college, that avenue wasn’t open to her. She studied analyti-cal and pharmaceutical chemistry, before work-ing in the blood analysis lab in CUH, going to Eng-land and then returned to college to study herbal medicine in 2005.“We were the first year of graduates in Ire-land and it was kind of monumental – it was a great honour to be at the cutting edge of herbal medicine revival here in Ireland. In 2005, it was as if herbal medicine picked me. I dropped everything and went back to col-lege full time,” Margaret revealed.
Even though herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of treating people, it is still very much an emerging field in Ireland, while the UK would be about 15 years ahead.Margaret worked as a senior herbal pharma-cist in Lismore Clinic of Herbal Medicine and she has won awards in phar-macy and pharmacology, but going into business on her own was something she always wanted to do. Adding that working in the Bridge Clinic, Fermoy alongside Dr Keane adds great credibility to what she does and since she opened up in September, she has thankfully been very busy.However, she did say that many of her patients are coming to her as a last resort and she would like to see people being more open to the idea. “They are sceptical and they have tried every-thing else. So I just smile and say ‘give it a go’,” she said.She added that it is very rewarding when people come in to thank her, because their lives have changed for the better, thanks to herbal medicine.“I recognise that it is a leap coming to me, but herbal medicine shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, it works and it has been used for thousands of years and science today is proving that. 80% of the world’s medicine is herbal. I would like to see people coming in about problems they would nor-mally go to a doctor for.”She explained that the current health system is there to treat the people who are sick, whereas herbal medicine is pre-ventative and has a more holistic approach.Margaret told The Avondhu that a first con-sultation would last up to an hour and a half, includ-ing half an hour for the prescription formulation and dispensing.In that initial con-sultation, she would go through different aspects of a person’s life, looking at things like nutrition, exercise, sleep, values and beliefs, relationships and all things psycho spiritual.“Our premise is that of a healthier lifestyle over-all,” Margaret said. She added that people also have to work at changing the way they live, as it is often a combination of factors which are aggra-vating or causing a condi-tion or illness.
“If a person comes in, it’s not a case of a quick fix – they’re not going to take a pill that will fix everything. They have to take time to develop new patterns. I go backwards and look for the causes behind the symptoms.“It’s a life change and it won’t happen in a few weeks. The patient will get relief in a few weeks, but I want to empower them to look at them-selves and take control of their lives.“I would never pro-mote the idea that people come off their medica-tion, but I give the patient information and scien-tific evidence so that they can make an informed choice.”While the herbs all work on a very practical level, through the interac-tion of chemicals, Mar-garet explains that like most things, it does help if people are honest and open, as she is there to help, not to judge.“It does help if the person is open minded and positive, but the herbs work in a very chemical and physical way through the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of plant chemicals.”She added that work-ing with herbs is very scientific and she loves matching the chemical constituents of a herbal medicine to a particular patient. “Each herbal medi-cine has specific family groups of chemicals and they would take a spe-cific action on the body. If two people come in with migraines, they will go out with very different herbs. You treat the per-son, not the disease and the treatment is very spe-cific to the individual,” she said.
Margaret also stressed that herbal treatment is very affordable. “I don’t want people holding back because they can’t afford the treatment, so I make it accessible. I would prescribe supplements sometimes as well, but I promote health through food.”Some of the most common things that Margaret would treat include digestive upsets, migraines, anxi-ety, depression, arthritis, sleep disturbances, skin problems, infections, menopause, stress and hormonal, immune and endocrine disorders, among other things