MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Many medications are made from herbs, why aren't they prescribed?

Date: Sat May 9 16:50:43 1998
Posted By: Mark Madachik, PD, Heartland Farm/Nursery
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 894242307.Me

Hi. Herbs or medicinal plants have been used down through the ages for whatever ailed us. In fact we still use them and prescribe them but not always in the unrefined form that the health food stores and pharmacies now sell in abundance. What has occurred with advancements in medicinal chemistry is the isolation, refinement, and then use of individual medicinal factors within these plants. This is done to provide drugs that are more specific in their use and possesses less side affects. Though not the "natural" way, it is often better.

If you read up on any of the currently popular herbs you will find that they are often recommended for many ailments. This makes it very difficult to prove or disprove the efficacy or true worth of herbs in medicine. It also tends to make medical practitioners a bit nervous about prescribing medicine (herbs) that may cause more than one response in a patient. Dosing can become a problem since the percentage of individual factors within any plant can be changed by environmental influences and herbs sold today are not subjected to the stringent tests for purity that prescription drugs must meet.

This variation in refinement also varies the potency or more importantly the effect they have on us. Some herbs have shown to be beneficial if taken in an intelligent manner but this applies to only a few. The truth is that a large amount of the claims made for herb benefits are often exaggerated so as to increase the manufacturer profits. Even within the Orient where herbal use is high there is very little unbiased documented facts for the claims that are made of these herbs.

Herbs may be used more often in the practice of medicine and maybe even prescribed when more exacting and reliable data becomes available as to the TRUE benefits and uses and also TRUE adverse reactions. Work has increased to provide this data and hopefully in the near future we will have answers we can rely on. We'll get there - it just takes time to do it intelligently… But from a practical stand point I would not be in any hurry to have herbs PRESCRIBED... it just might raise the price... Mark

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