Use of Herbals Introduction For many years, herbals have been used to treat various conditions like, liver diseases, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis among others (Cassileth, Yeung, and Gubili & 2008). There is also an increase in the use of these compounds among people living with HIV/AIDS…
Studies have also shown improvements in the control of quality and evaluation of these compounds. Considering that many herbal compounds do not undergo chemical processing, many people think that they are safe, and have no side effects even when taken beyond measure (Cassileth, Yeung, and Gubili & 2008). They also tend to use these compounds alongside prescribed medicines having the impression that they will improve treatment. Despite their proven values, herbals do not have the perceived safety, and neither do they all improve treatment when used alongside prescribed drugs. One of the emerging issues in modern times is that herbal compounds are not as safe as they are thought to be. In fact, they may be counterproductive when used by patients undergoing certain treatments and those on prescription medications. History of herbal medicine use The use of herbals has a long history dating back about ten thousand years. Some of the longest records of the use of herbal medicines include those found in Egypt, India and ancient China. Herbals also have a long history in other indigenous cultures including the Native American and African cultures. With the advent of chemical analysis in the 19th century, scientists started extracting and modifying active ingredients contained in plants and came up with pharmaceuticals. Even with the development of pharmaceuticals, natural remedies to human health still represent a significant portion of the US market, and other parts of the globe. In places like Germany, for example, the sales turnover of one herbal product called silymarin amounts to $180 million annually (Breevort, 1996). This herbal compound is used almost exclusively for treating liver problems. Almost a third of outpatients seeking medical care from liver clinics use this product according to Breevort (1996). Breevort (1996) also explains that marketing of herbals between 1992 and 1996 increased threefold. Studies also reveal that over the last two decades, there has been growth in the level of public dissatisfaction with the prices of prescription medications, coupled with a growing interest in organic or natural remedies in the United States. This essentially has led to an increase in herbal medicines use. How herbals work Unlike doctors practicing conventional medicine, herbalists try to find and deal with the underlying causes of a health problem instead of treating individual symptoms. This is done based on the belief that the use of herbal tonics and tinctures can help the body heal itself by restoring harmony and balance, and activating the life force of the body (Cassileth, Yeung, and Gubili & 2008). Just like naturopathic medicine, it aims at supporting the body’s natural ability to achieve optimal health, and facilitating the innate healing mechanisms of the body. The compounds used for conducting herbal treatments are extracted from roots, barks, berries, seeds, leaves, flowers and petals of plants, and are presented as complex mixtures of many different compounds. Efficacy and safety of herbal products There are a number of scientific literatures that have documented the safety and efficacy of herbal products including their toxic effects. Many of these reports contradict the popular view asserting that herbals are natural compounds and, therefore, are harmless. A study conducted by the National Poison Information Service during the period 1991-1995 recorded 785 cases of confirmed or probable cases of adverse reactions to ...
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