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The rise of herbalism: Why people are turning to nature for medicines

Written by Rebecca Lazarou

Herbal medicines are fast gaining popularity – but why? Here, medicinal plant scientist Rebecca Lazarou dives into what is causing this shift in paradigm.

The trend

More and more so in the past couple of decades people have been turning towards natural medicines for their healthcare (1). Herbal medicines generally fall into the “alternative” or “complementary” healthcare sectors. However these terms can be misleading as for an increasing number of people herbal medicines are their primary form of healthcare. The terms “alternative” or “complementary” are imposed from a hegemonic medical system, in which anything that deviates is implied as lesser than or simply an add-on.  

Anecdotal evidence from herbalism schools shows that the number of applicants to train as herbalists has risen to levels never seen before. One might even say that plant based medicines are becoming more and more normalised in society. However it must also be noted that university courses have slowly been closing down over the years, and efforts are needed to reinstate them so that herbal research and longevity can be assured.

There has not been much recent academic research conducted on the general populations use of herbal medicines during the pandemic, however market research shows use has risen exponentially. Herbal medicine markets global sales are expected to grow from $83 billion in 2019, to a staggering $550 Billion by 2030 (2). Unfortunately this money is not generally falling into herbalists hands, rather it is being generated by often less scrupulous supplement companies. The point here though is that the peak in interest from the public is undeniable and rising rapidly.

I completed my degree in Biomedical Science-Human Biology, always with the intention to study herbal medicines after. I wanted to bridge the gap between plant medicines and science. I then went on to study a masters at UCL School of Pharmacy, in Medicinal Natural Products and Phytochemistry where I learnt deeply about phytomedicines, quality control, laboratory techniques and medicinal plant science.
Since then I have been an associate editor for the science publication Journal of Herbal Medicine. I research medicinal plants at Kew Gardens, and have been a G7 youth ambassador for healthcare. You can read more about my research here. I have launched my own botanical medicine company Laz The Plant Scientist offering herbal medicines, education and experiential events.

I am passionate about herbal medicines as I believe medicines should prioritise prevention as well as having a holistic focus. I love that herbal medicines work to rebalance us and optimise our quality of life, and I have witnessed them having a transformative effect time and time again. I also believe that living in symbiosis with and nurturing a relationship with nature is one of the most healing things we can do.

Rebecca Lazarou

I completed my degree in Biomedical Science-Human Biology, always with the intention to study herbal medicines after. I wanted to bridge the gap between plant medicines and science. I then went on to study a masters at UCL School of Pharmacy, in Medicinal Natural Products and Phytochemistry where I learnt deeply about phytomedicines, quality control, laboratory techniques and medicinal plant science.
Since then I have been an associate editor for the science publication Journal of Herbal Medicine. I research medicinal plants at Kew Gardens, and have been a G7 youth ambassador for healthcare. You can read more about my research here. I have launched my own botanical medicine company Laz The Plant Scientist offering herbal medicines, education and experiential events.

I am passionate about herbal medicines as I believe medicines should prioritise prevention as well as having a holistic focus. I love that herbal medicines work to rebalance us and optimise our quality of life, and I have witnessed them having a transformative effect time and time again. I also believe that living in symbiosis with and nurturing a relationship with nature is one of the most healing things we can do.

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