ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: HERBAL MEDICINE

There are two sides to herbal medicine. The first is the pharmaceutical aspect and the second is the innate energy within the plant itself. In the West the therapeutic use of herbs is very much based on their chemical effects, and there is much research to suggest that the pharmaceutical benefits of herbal medicines are greater than those of orthodox drugs. Being naturally occurring chemicals, they seem to be broken down by the body

The shelves of a well-stocked herbalist and , and thereby work in exactly the same way as the proprietary drugs. Injudicious use or overuse can be just as harmful as regular drug-taking and may act by suppressing symptoms rather than dealing with the underlying cause, which is the principle of holistic medicine. The notorious success of Chinese herbs in eczema is an example of this. Most herbalists are scrupulous about sticking to the concept of natural medicine but many are not. The Eastern philosophies will rarely prescribe a herb without looking at the lifestyle as a whole but I have noticed that many practitioners of Eastern medicine are simply providing remedies with little or no insight into the person as a whole. Such herbalists should be avoided,

There is occasional ‘bad press’ concerning herbal medicine. Very recently a major London hospital reported six deaths among people using Chinese herbs for skin problems. The media made out that these deaths were caused by unlicensed practitioners and that the whole of alternative/ complementary medicine was a risk. In fact, all six cases were related to people overdosing on the compounds and should have created no more of a stir other than to press for the correct labelling of prescriptions. It is worth putting this piece of information into context by understanding that over 2,000 deaths were caused by over-the-counter medicines in 1994. There are no statistics to show the number of deaths caused by prescribed drugs that are taken incorrectly. Basically, herbal medicine is safe when prescribed in the right dosages by the right practitioner.

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