Thursday, April 14, 2005

Herbal Remedies vs Traditional Medicine

There's a lot of negative rhetoric on either side of this when really, the whole point should be "what can we do to help this patient?".

One of the problems is that both groups appear to be so insecure in their beliefs that if they were to give any credence at all to the other side, then somehow the other side would "win".

So, one group eschews manufactured medicines because they are not natural, and therefore suspect...those manmade chemicals cannot possibly be as safe as those active ingredients found and used in their natural state. The other group avoids herbal remedies because they have not been through the rigorous testing required for manufactured drugs and are therefore suspect, because how can you really know what it does unless it's been studied and quantified?

And these folks are the rational people on either side of the debate; it's really fun when either side jumps in with the paranoid conspiracies, which (have you noticed?) are becoming increasingly common in our society.

Those herbal remedies are being studied more and more. Some of them are just as wonderful as promised. Some are turning out to be placebos or actually harmful. But at least someone is taking the time to see what good is being done with herbals. One of the problems, though, is that it is hard to quantify the strength of an herbal ingredient unless it is refined (which leads back to that whole manmade thing). Two plants of the same species may have differing amounts of the active drug, depending on how or where it was grown...which makes it difficult for the investigators to quantify how much of the active ingredient is being utilized by the individual patient...and if the amounts are different, is that why Patient A did better than Patient B?

The other side has been villified for so long (remember those days long ago when MDs were gods and no one else mattered?) that it is very hard to trust anything from the medical establishment -- and because they have been excluded from the medical establishment, they don't follow the medical it's hard to get acceptance. And after years of no acceptance...well...there are a lot of people who simply no longer care whether those remedies are accepted or not. I know people who will trust an untested herbal remedy over a tested pharmaceutical, simply because the herbal remedy is "natural". Well, deathcap mushrooms are natural, too.

At the same time, when I have a patient who has trouble sleeping, I have them try the 1/2 turkey sandwich & milk before bedtime; failing that, a cup of chamomile tea; then tryptophan; and only then go to the prescriptive sleep aids.

It's a lot like those liberals and conservatives. Both sides unwilling to give in, despite the fact that a combination of both may be what's needed for the good of all.

What brought this up? Today I'm researching a homeopathic remedy which one of my investigators wants to test for use in oral cancer patients, post radiation, to possibly help with mucositis (horrible mouth sores). If we do a study with it -- whether it works or not -- I see it as a gain for both sides.


Gone Away said...

It's amazing how far a little common sense will go. And in you, Jodie, we get our daily dose. ;)

Meepers said...

I like your happy medium approach! I wish that we could apply it in a therapeutic form (maybe Boiron and Merck could get together on this!) to both sides and see what happens. Could be things might actually move forward instead of the pendulum swinging back and forth every so often.

Keeefer said...

I prefer man made drugs.
I cant be doing with camomile tea, or any infussion of random leaves. None of this rosehip balm rubbed into my temples, I dont want some wrinkly chinaman jabbing needles in my back and feet claiming it will cure my ailments.....nuts to all that. When im ill i want plastic bottles with caps that require an engineering dergee to remove. thick pink medicines that taste like creosote.....or if im feeling really bad i want some scary matron type to jab Hypodermic needles in my arm while raising her voice and sharply saying "sit still, if this breaks off in your arm there will be trouble".