Misuse of Alternative Herbal Medicine in Today’s Era

by Vibe
posted in Blog
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Twenty years back, if you wanted to know about a particular subject, you needed to visit a library and refer through many books. Only a few individuals had that patience and persistence. Today, a mere click on the internet spews out information which goes beyond your needs. And it has changed the world like never before. With the limitations of modern medicine and the disadvantages of its long term use, people started looking for alternates. Today, the internet has a profusion of websites which deals with alternative medicine.

An example would be Ayurveda. In the last 20 years Ayurveda has grown out of India and spread across the world. The Ayurvedic system of medicine treats patients using the holistic approach where, the cause is treated rather than the symptoms. This approach is beneficial to the body as unlike modern medicine, no strong chemicals or drugs are used. It is almost natural that with the increased use of natural medicines, there began its misuse and in some cases, the abuse of these medicines. The basic concepts of this system of medicine were forgotten by those indulging in the misuse of these medicines.

Alternative herbal medicine has its own limitations. It takes time to cure the patient and restore health. But, in that mad headlong rush to make most of the opportunities available, corners are cut and false claims are made. There is no scientific study or clinical research available which shows that herbal remedies can cure cancer. There is no known cure or remedy for alopecia (based on scientific studies and clinical research). Yet, you would find a profusion of sites and herbalists claiming to have great remedies for both conditions. In fact, name any disease or condition, and you can find herbal remedies for it on the net. What goes unnoticed and unsaid is that most of the claims are false and misleading. And these claims are repeated for a multitude of ailments. Sadly, people fall for such claims and end up paying a heavy price.

Another fad today is drinking herbal teas. Do drinking herbal teas do any good?  Yes, indeed they do. A herbal mixture of Tulsi (Holy Basil), ginger, pepper and Neem (Azadirachta indica) with tea would do wonders in chest congestion associated with common cold and flu. But that doesn’t mean that all herbs are to be taken as herbal teas. And herbal teas do not have any scientific back to show that they aid slimming as is widely publicized. You must have heard about herbal endurance enhancers. Fitness fanatics have been known to swear by them. Sadly, it more hype than substance. There is no scientific rationale in the contents, mechanism of action or the dosages taken. Which again is the case with that most abused and misused segment of all herbal supplements – aphrodisiacs.

One of the worst forms of misuse happens when toxic substances enter into the medicine. Heavy metals are the most likely culprits and are a result of a lack of proper analytical testing and improper manufacturing procedures. Shodhana is the process of purification of herbs and metals. When done properly and as per directions in age old texts, it is fine. The problems arise when modern technology is combined with undue haste to deliver outputs. 17 – 20 % of the patented medicines in the market contain traces of heavy metals which when consumed over a long period of time develop complications.

Herbal extracts are another segment where extreme caution is required. All extracts are best used when fresh. Yes, you can dry the leaves, fruits, seeds, stem etc and later take the extract from them. Some methods of storing extracts over long periods of time require the addition of preservatives. Some of these extracts contain chemical preservatives which can do harm when taken over a long period of time.

Do not get upset or perturbed over herbal medicines. For every case of misuse reported, there are hundreds of cases where alternate herbal medicine provides succor and relief. Qualified practitioners of herbal medicines do not make ludicrous claims about treating cancer or AIDS; they quietly do their job without much fanfare. They do not misuse or abuse herbal medicines, they use herbal medicines to treat patients and restore them to their original self without exposing their patients to any risks.

If you plan to use herbal medicines, never self-medicate, fall for advertisements or come under the influence of quacks. Seek a registered practitioner; learn about the treatment and its scientific principles and follow the course prescribed. And see the change it does to your body and mind.

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