Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Herbs as medicines.



Herbs as medicines

Herbs or medicinal plants have a long history in treating diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, the written history of herbal medicine dates back more than 2,000 years, and Western herbalists have used "weeds" for the same time to treat what ails us. We all know the virtues of garlic, chamomile, peppermint, lavender, and other common herbs.

Interest in herbal medicine is on the rise again and interest is coming mainly from the pharmaceutical industry, which is always looking for 'new drugs' and more effective substances to treat diseases, for which there may be very few or no drugs available.

Considering the very long traditional use of herbal medicines and the large amount of evidence for their efficacy, why are we not generally encouraged to use traditional herbal medicine instead of synthetic and incomplete copies of herbs, called drugs, considering the millions of dollars spent searching for these seemingly elusive substances?

Herbs are considered treasures when it comes to ancient cultures and herbalists, and many of the so-called weeds are worth their weight in gold. 

Scientists at the Royal Botanical Gardens, in Kew, west London, are researching the medicinal properties of herbs like the humble dandelion, and they believe it could be the source of a life-saving drug for cancer patients.

Early evidence suggests it could be the key to preventing cancer, which kills tens of thousands of people each year.

His work on the cancer-fighting properties of dandelion, which also has a history of use in treating warts, is part of a much larger project to examine the natural medicinal properties of dozens of British plants and flowers.

Professor Monique Simmonds, Director of the Sustainable Plant Uses Group at Kew, said: "We are not randomly testing plants for their potential medicinal properties, we are looking at plants that we know have a long history of use to treat certain problems."

Unfortunately, as is often the case, this group of scientists appears to be looking for active ingredients, which can then be synthesized and then turned into drugs. This is not the way herbs are traditionally used and their functions inevitably change when the active ingredients are used in isolation. That's like saying that the only important part of a car is the engine; you don't need to include anything else.

So why is there this need to isolate the 'active ingredients'?

As a scientist, I can understand the need for the scientific process to establish the fact that a particular herb acts on a disease, pathogen or whatever, and the need to know why and how it does it. But, and this is BIG but, as a doctor of Chinese medicine, I also understand the process of choosing and prescribing COMBINATIONS of herbs, which have a synergistic effect to treat not only the disease, but any underlying conditions, as well as the person with the disease - that's a big difference and not one that can be easily proven using standard scientific methodologies.

 Instead of trying to isolate the active ingredient (s), why not try these herbs, using the knowledge of professional herbalists, on patients in vivo, using the myriad of technology available to medical researchers and diagnosticians. to see how and why these herbs work in living, breathing patients, rather than in a test tube or laboratory rats and mice (which, by the way, are not human and have a different, albeit somewhat similar, physiology to ours).

I suspect that one of the reasons for not following the above procedure is that pharmaceutical companies are not really interested in the effects of medicinal plants as a whole, but rather in whether they can isolate a therapeutic substance that can then be manufactured economically. and economical. marketed as a new drug and, of course, that's where the money is.

However, the problem with this approach is that medicinal plants such as comfrey, dandelion, and other herbs generally contain hundreds, if not thousands, of interacting chemical compounds, but many of which are not yet understood and not understood. they can manufacture. That is why manufactured drugs, based on so-called active ingredients, often do not work or produce side effects.

Aspirin is a classic example. It is a relatively simple compound to produce synthetically, however, aspirin is known for its ability to cause stomach irritation and, in some cases, ulceration of the stomach wall.

The herbal extract of the white willow bark generally does not cause stomach irritation due to other so-called 'non-active ingredients' contained in the bark, which work to protect the stomach lining thus preventing ulceration of the stomach wall. .

Ask yourself, which one would you choose - side effects or no site effects? - It's a very simple answer. It's not like that?

So why aren't herbal medicines used more often, and why do we have pharmaceutical imposters stuffed down our throats? The answer is that there is little to no money in herbs for drug companies. They, the herbs, have already been invented, they grow easily, they multiply easily, and for the most part they are freely available.

Also, correctly prescribed and formulated herbal compounds generally solve the patient's health problem over a period of time, leaving no requirement to continue taking the preparation, which means no repeat sales. no recipes in progress. no ongoing problem.

Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, are primarily aimed at alleviating symptoms, that is: ongoing inquiries, ongoing sales, ongoing health issues, what do you think is a more profitable proposition?

Don't get me wrong, this is not to say that all drugs are imposters or that none of the pharmaceutical drugs cure disease or illness; They do and some are life-preserving preparations and are certainly invaluable. However, herbal extracts can be just as effective, but they are not promoted and are greatly underused.

The daily news is full of herbal 'discoveries' found as a possible cure for this or that, as in the example of dandelion and its possible anticancer properties. The point is that these herbs must be researched in the right way. They are not just "an active ingredient". . Also, herbalists rarely prescribe herbal extracts as alone (a preparation that uses only one herb). Herbalists typically mix a variety of medicinal plants together to make a mixture, which addresses more than just the main symptoms.

In Chinese medicine, for example, there is a strict hierarchy of any herbal prescription, requiring a considerable depth of knowledge and experience on the part of physicians. The fact that the main or main herb has active ingredients, which has a specific physiological effect, does not mean that the other herbs are not necessary in the preparation. This is a fact apparently ignored by the pharmaceutical industry in its need to manufacture new drugs that can control diseases.

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