What do you do when you’ve got a headache? Take a painkiller, probably. But what if you had three or four headaches a week?
We know that painkillers become less effective with frequent use, and that they can even cause headaches in the long term. And in any case, when a problem like headaches becomes chronic, you have to start thinking about causes.
It’s fine to use drugs – or herbs – for a quick fix from time to time: Chamomile when you’re feeling anxious, Rennies for an acid stomach, Hops to help you sleep. Symptoms come and go, and usually they have no deeper significance. But if they recur or become persistent, symptomatic treatment can make the problem worse in the long run.
It enables you to live with the problem without dealing with the cause of it, and that tends to mean trouble later on
People who use herbs and other complementary therapies often say that drugs merely treat symptoms, while herbs or homoeopathy or acupuncture will get to the root of the problem.
It's not strictly true
You can use any of these therapies at a symptomatic level, and people do it all the time. But that is a tiny part of their potential. The real strength of herbal medicine is in addressing imbalance, filling you up when you’re empty and ‘feeding’ your vital energy. Ideally, of course, that job should be done before you even develop any symptoms at all – but this is real life we’re talking about, in all its messiness.
Luckily, there’s plenty we can do after the trouble has started as well.