Christine Haughton is a certified herbalist who helped bring yin & tonic to life. She studied Herbal Medicine at the College of Phytotherapy in East Sussex and has and extensive background in holistic healing. A member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy, she also holds a diploma in Nutrition and Health Sciences – so it’s safe to say that when it comes to herbal medicines, she really knows what she’s talking about!
We had a chat with her about her career, the growing interest in herbal medicine and all-natural remedy alternatives to mainstream medicine, and our latest superstar product, yin & tonic.
To find out more about yin & tonic, our ingestible, herbal period support elixir, head here or read our FAQs.
For those who have never heard of a herbalist, we’re primary caregivers, just like your GP.
Herbal medicine differs from mainstream medicine in that the objective is to treat individuals in a holistic way, dealing with the causes of disorders rather than simply trying to alleviate their effects on the body. The initial consultation with a herbalist will generally take an hour or more. All individuals are different, and a herbalist will take into account lifestyle, diet, emotional state and many other factors in order to build up a complete picture of that person.
Many of the diagnostic methods that herbalists use are the same as you would experience in your GPs surgery, for example urinalysis, blood pressure monitoring. The herbalist and client will then discuss the findings and together they will come up with an action plan and a tailor-made prescription to start to correct any imbalances and to restore physiological health and emotional wellbeing.
This action plan might include dietary changes, an exercise regime and stress-reduction suggestions. The herbal prescription, which usually contains a blend of several herbs, will not only help to alleviate symptoms but will also address the underlying causes of those symptoms. Subsequent consultations will review progress and, if necessary, the prescription can be refined or changed.
Becoming a herbalist requires a lot of higher education
I studied Herbal Medicine at the College of Phytotherapy in East Sussex. The very comprehensive course lasted four years (plus a foundation year for those with no previous qualification in biology and chemistry). Subjects studied included anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, biochemistry, clinical diagnosis, botany, materia medica, nutrition, dermatology and geriatric medicine. I was also required to undertake 500 hours of supervised clinical practice. After the final written exams there was a scary clinical examination conducted under the watchful eyes of both herbalists and mainstream medical professionals, all of whom asked very searching questions.
After qualification I was invited to join the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy whose members have to undertake a programme of Continuous Professional Development to ensure that their skills are kept up to date at all times. In tandem with my herbal course I completed a Diploma in Nutrition and Health Sciences.
I have been interested in herbal medicine since childhood…
My grandmother, while not a herbalist, knew a great deal about plant lore and was very skilled at treating common ailments with herbal syrups and teas. My sister and I often accompanied her on her collection trips. We were always pretty healthy!
My first degree was in archaeology, a subject I still enjoy, but at the back of my mind there was always the idea that I would like to become a herbalist. Eventually, I enrolled in the College of Phytotherapy course where I learned an immense amount about holistic healing.
To me, holistic healing means the restoration of health to the triumvirate of mind, body and spirit
I see so often in my practice that people’s health can be affected badly by injured emotions and external factors. Likewise, pain and discomfort can have a negative effect on the spirit, causing anxiety and depression. All of those have to be taken into account for treatment to be successful.
I am fortunate to know many other holistic practitioners who I often refer clients to for parallel treatment or on those few occasions where herbal medicine may not be the best approach – chiropractors, counsellors, massage therapists, acupuncturists. I also believe diet is extremely important. Hippocrates was right when he said in his text De Alimento: “in food excellent medicine can be found, and in food bad medicine can be found”. Daily exercise is crucial too, and just getting outdoors to reconnect with nature, be it the wide open spaces or a walk in a local park or along a riverbank – it makes your spirit soar.
Herbal medicine treats people as individuals
For example, a GP and a herbalist may each have ten patients suffering from migraine. It is likely that the GP will prescribe similar drugs to all ten, whereas the herbalist will prescribe a completely different mixture of herbs to each of them depending on the probable underlying causes, for example stress, food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, etc.
Increasingly, nowadays GP consultations are restricted by time constraints, and often patients don’t see the same doctor on subsequent visits so there may be little continuity of care. A herbalist will spend a great deal of time getting to know the client and trying to get to the root of the problem. Secondly, many mainstream drugs have quite an aggressive action, shocking the body into submission and often causing unwanted side-effects, while herbal medicines generally have a gentle (though powerful), supportive and restorative effect.
Mainstream drugs bring to mind the expression ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’!
The main advantage, in my opinion, of herbal medicines is that they have a much more gentle action than many mainstream drugs. Herbs are less likely to cause unpleasant side-effects too. But we shouldn’t forget that mainstream medicine has brought us many life-saving drugs too. Lots of mainstream drugs have their origins in herbal medicine, although they are made synthetically nowadays, and generally based only a few of the active herbal constituents.
Herbs themselves contain lots of different constituents, many of them working together synergistically, thereby enhancing the total effect. Let’s take aspirin – it may lead to irritation of the mucous membranes, bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, and stomach ulcers if taken regularly. Willow bark, in which the constituent salicin was first discovered, is a much gentler alternative with few side-effects. The herbal product has a large advantage over aspirin because of its complex of active constituents that produce an overall modulating effect. However, willow bark does not have the anticoagulant action of aspirin (although other herbal remedies, such as garlic, do).
You can’t go into herbal medicine expecting an ‘instant fix’!
There is an over-reliance on drugs nowadays rather than careful investigation of problems in detail in order to come up with the optimum treatment plan. Patients too are sometimes guilty of expecting an ‘instant fix’ that they think will solve their immediate problems and allow them to continue with a lifetime of bad habits!
Many disorders respond very well to simple dietary and lifestyle recommendations without the need for aggressive drugs, but this of course requires a degree of self-discipline. But taking more control of one’s own health is never a bad thing.
Another problem is that after drugs have been prescribed their use is rarely monitored; some people end up taking them for years and years for no good reason and without regular reviews; this is a particular problem with anti-depressants. Unfortunately those working within mainstream medicine often cannot devote the time required to get to know their patients as individuals and design tailor-made treatment programmes.
As far as our reproductive, menstrual and menopausal health are concerned, there still appears to be a disappointing and lingering attitude that it’s ‘all in the head, it’s just hormones’, which really needs to change.
Herbal medicine isn’t a one-size-fits all situation
The therapeutic effects of herbs are increasingly being studied with a critical, scientific and evidence-based approach, examining their medical applications, their mode of action, adverse effects and interaction with other medications, backed up by stringent clinical trials.
Herbs have been used for millennia, although it doesn’t hurt to have our beliefs confirmed by science, but also to be alerted to possible drawbacks which were unrecognised previously (thankfully rare!). Just because herbs are natural doesn’t always mean that they are always safe for some individuals to take.
The World Health Organisation estimates that over 80% of the global population use herbal medicine for some areas of their health care, and in the past 10 years the use of herbal supplements has grown over 380%!
For much of the world’s population the sheer cost of drugs, or even easy access to medical care can be an immense problem, but many communities still have a wealth of traditional knowledge to draw upon, using herbal remedies that they have access to within their own localities. It saddens me that increasing western influence has meant that in many cases those ‘traditional’ communities are slowly losing that vast knowledge base, passed down through the generations.
My grandmother’s generation knew all the local plants and how they could be used to treat common ailments, but many kids nowadays would struggle to name more than a couple. In the west particularly, many people are now becoming disillusioned with mainstream medicine and deciding to take back control of their own health. The internet enables everyone to do their own research – although too much information can be dangerous, particularly when not all sources are credible.
Don’t trust everything you read online – look for the science to back it up!
Sometimes I despair as a herbalist when a client arrives with reams of paperwork describing obscure ‘cures’ and treatments which make little sense. Many herbs have become so ‘fashionable’ and so extensively advertised that they are now becoming endangered. This is one area where scientific research definitely helps!
Supplements can be very useful, but you should first ascertain whether you actually need them. They are certainly no substitute for a balanced and varied diet and, if you want to have a go with treating common ailments with herbs, you should first research reliable sources, backed up by evidence (see reading list below). Extra care should be taken if you suffer from a serious medical condition or are taking prescribed medication. A friendly pharmacist or qualified herbalist can advise and help you choose what’s best for you.
Now onto the product we’ve all been dying to chat about… yin & tonic!
yin & tonic contains six excellent herbs – Ginger, Calendula, Dong quai, Cramp bark, Motherwort and Fenugreek, along with added vitamins. Together they not only address the unpleasant symptoms that many women experience during their period – cramps, nausea, mood swings, fatigue, engorged breasts, etc – but they work synergistically to produce a tonic effect on the reproductive organs, stimulating the circulation, and relaxing the smooth muscle of the uterus. In addition, herbs such as Motherwort works on the emotions, to reduce feelings of helplessness, irritability and anxiety.
yin & tonic works because of the power the ingredients have together, not just alone
The best herbal formulations are those whose overall effects are greater than the sum of the parts. This is known as synergy – a very powerful thing. Many herbs, such as the ginger in this formulation, enhance the actions of others, in this case by improving the circulation to and within the reproductive organs, efficiently getting the remedy to where it is needed most!
The components in yin & tonic have been carefully chosen and blended not only to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms but also to gradually improve the overall health and vitality of the reproductive organs in a gentle and supportive way so that it is hoped that your symptoms will gradually recede and, in time, disappear altogether.
There’s no need to be anxious about trying a new herbal product such as this one
All of the herbs in the formulation have been the subject of intensive study, and have a history of traditional use going back hundreds of years. There is nothing to fear. Herbs are gentle remedies. Some people will respond to them quite quickly, sometimes it takes a little longer to correct the physiological imbalances that are at the root of the problem. Don’t expect herbs to work instantly (think of a lovingly prepared family meal vs a fast food burger!). My mantra is ‘give your body time to heal’.
My number #1 way to take yin & tonic is… I usually add my herbs to some fruit juice or a smoothie, but you can add yin & tonic to a glass of water or herbal tea if you prefer.
My favourite ingredient in yin & tonic is… I love ginger root – it’s so warming, soothing and relaxing, just like a herbal hot water bottle!
My top tip for anyone looking to get into herbal remedies… is that there really is nothing to fear! Nature has provided us with a wonderful pharmacy. Herbs are gentle (though powerful) and work with your body’s natural processes to restore and enhance your health and vitality. Just go for it. They won’t hurt you and you’ll notice the benefits!
Get your hands on yin & tonic, the industry-first pro-period tincture!
Further Reading for those interested in herbal medicine, as provided by Christine herself!
- Glenville, Marilyn 2018 The Natural Health Bible for Women, Watkins Publishing, ISBN 9781786781376
- McIntyre, Anne 1994 The Complete Woman’s Herbal: a manual of healing herbs and nutrition for personal well-being and family care, Gaia Books ISBN 9780805035377
- Rogers, Carol 1995 The Women’s Guide to Herbal Medicine, BCA/Penguin, ISBN 9780241133477
- Trickey, Ruth 2003 Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle: Herbal and Medical Solutions from Adolesence to Menopause, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 186508980X