Postprint of: Nissen, N & Evans, S 2012, 'Exploring the practice and use of Western herbal medicine: perspectives from the social science literature', Journal of Herbal Medicine, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 6-15.
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The literature which concerns Western herbal medicine (WHM) overwhelmingly provides clinical and pharmacological perspectives on the utilisation of herbs as medicine. Research which examines WHM as a social practice and the theoretical concepts associated with it, or the manner in which the knowledge base of WHM is developing and changing is less often discussed. This article provides an overview of the social science literature concerning WHM, as it pertains to practice in Europe, North America and Australasia. One theme emerging from this literature is the mapping of the practice, patients and practitioners of WHM, and another theme addresses more theoretical issues that consider the development of herbal knowledge and the social factors which impact on herbal practice. This paper based on a small but diverse body of literature, sketches the current breadth of enquiry and debate surrounding WHM and points towards the importance of further social science research in the area.