Herbalism Versus Pharmacology

Over millions of people take medicine on a daily bases to cover up or suppress the symptoms of their illnesses. By doing this they end up further damaging their bodies without addressing the main issue. Is there no other way of dealing with illnesses? Well there is! Herbal medicines are natural remedies made for illnesses of many types. They are safe and contain organic-chemicals, healing our bodies in a natural and healthy manner. Many people have been healing themselves effectively for centuries using herbs.

Though pharmaceutical drugs have been useful in covering up or disguising symptoms of illnesses fast they result in putting harsh chemicals in our bodies. The fact that many people decide to use harmful medicine rather than herbs is because of the speed and strength they work at. Many pharmaceutical drugs are unhealthy and harmful to the body; the integration of herbal and natural remedies would make us healthier as humans. Since ancient times the use of healing with plants has been around in order to maintain good health, people always discovered ways in nature to make medicine.

Plants have been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. “Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings show medicinal uses of plants from as early as 3,000 BC. Africans and Native Americans used herbs in their healing rituals, others developed traditional medical systems, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine where herbal therapies were used” (University of Maryland Medical Center). Researchers from University of Maryland Medical Center found that people in different parts of the world used similar plants for the same purposes.

Medicine use all changed when science advanced “In the early 19th century when chemical analysis first became available, scientists began to extract and modify the active ingredients from plants. Chemists later began making their own version of plant compounds, and over time the use of herbal medicines were not favored as highly as drugs” (Herbal medicine). When they started to modify the plants problems in drug use started to arise. The misuse of prescription drugs has risen in the 21st century.

“Misuse of these medications can rapidly escalate into abuse or dependence and require costly rehabilitative treatment it is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. In 2010, about one in four illicit-drug users reported that their initiation into illegal drug use began with prescription drugs” (Adams) Prescription drug abuse has become a major issue in the world today. Pharmaceutical medicine may treat sudden/serious illnesses and accidents more effectively than herbal treatments.

“An herbalist would not be able to treat serious trauma, such as a broken leg, nor would he be able to heal an appendicitis or a heart attack as effectively as a conventional doctor using modern diagnostic tests, surgery, and drugs” (Grunert). A disadvantage of herbal medicine is that many herbs do not come with instructions. You have the risk of poisoning yourself if you do not correctly identify the herb, or if you use the wrong part of the plant in the wild. “Generally safety of prescription medications is high, as long as they are used as directed. However, herbal and prescription medications can result in problems.

What makes prescriptions safe is that they are standardized and contain no random ingredients. Herbal medications can contain many impurities. From pesticides in the water to contamination in the soil, you never know just exactly what chemicals may be incorporated into the plant” (Pauli) Prescription medications tend to have better guidelines and warnings about potential problems than herbal medicines. Compared with pharmaceutical drugs, herbs are safer if you use them correctly. Different herbs are prescribed at different dosages for different patients, even if the patients have the same disease.

Because of that, herbs usually have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs, and perform in a more organized manner. “Herbs act on multiple targets, unlike some synthetic drugs that target on only one molecule while their effects on other molecules in the pathways or systems are unknown. Such unknown effects can often lead to severe side effects of the synthetic drugs” (Tao) Prescription drugs cause chemical imbalances in the body. These imbalances may be the reason for lowered immune function. Prescription drugs can also cause more serious problems and may even kill you under certain circumstances.

“It’s interesting to note that natural remedies have never killed anyone and FDA approved prescription drugs kill 140,000 people a year in hospitals alone. That’s nearly 384 people every day of the year. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in a study of ‘adverse drug events’ (ADE’s) in people admitted to big city hospitals. An earlier study from the University of Arizona attributed 28 percent of hospitalizations to adverse drug events in prescription drugs. Defenders of the American prescription drug culture say the data from the JAMA ADE study overstated the number of cases per year.

Okay, perhaps it is only 100,000 people who die each year from ADE’s” (Santucci). Knowledge of the side-effects and interactions of drugs is constantly changing. Physicians change their prescriptions by ordering lower dosages or alternative medications and treatments because they are not sure of the amount that will be safe for their patients. “Currently to approve a new synthetic drug, the drug needs to go through clinical trials with a certain number of selected subjects for several years. The side effects of many of such drugs are undetected until they have been used by a larger population for a longer period of time.

Many drugs have been withdrawn from the market after such broader usages because of their high toxicity. However, herbs have been tested by generations and generations of people for thousands of years, and their effects from various aspects have been very well documented, such as those in Chinese medicine. ” (Tao) We actually have more knowledge about herbs than most of the newly approved pharmaceutical drugs. As Tao says, unlike most pharmaceutical drugs that have pure ingredients, such as small molecules or just a single protein, one herb has complex ingredients.

The different ingredients in one herb may balance each other, buffer each other, and act collaboratively, to make the systemic effect more powerful. In some herbal practices, several herbs are usually used together in a formula to treat one illness. The combination of herbs takes advantage of the interactions among different ingredients from multiple herbs for more balanced, less toxic, and more powerful effects. The complicated ingredients in herbal recipes are closer to nature and usually can be absorbed and processed better by the human body.

Prescription medicines have the potential of causing more severe side effects than herbal medicines because prescription medicines tend to be more potent than herbs. Herbal medicines cost far less than prescription medicines. In order to stay healthy we should start using herbs as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. Schools should teach the healing properties of herbal remedies and how to heal oneself with herbs. Doctors should recommend herbs more often and explain to the patient about herbs before taking drastic measures like prescribing harsh pharmaceutical drugs.

Since they will not heal the patient, cause harsh side effects, and cost a lot of money to just cover up the symptoms, in some cases making the patient more sick or lead to their death. By using herbs, recovery from a cold or flu could happen by just ingest the flower “echinacea”, it would get rid of all the symptoms and fight against the flu or cold to get rid of it completely. People should take the time to educate themselves about natural and herbal remedies for many illnesses. The education of herbs should be passed, down from generation to generation.

We should not get rid of pharmaceutical drugs completely but use them if herbs cannot be effective in the situation or for serious illnesses where the patient needs fast and strong results that may not be possible by herbs. People should not just pop a pill so carelessly over feeling minor inconvenience because most of the time they may be doing more harm to their bodies than good. “The FDA is responsible for monitoring the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products. While most people assume the agency itself closely tests new drugs, this is not the case.

Pharmaceutical companies must provide the FDA with research from clinical trials to prove their new drugs are safe for the market — a practice that unfortunately leaves room for bias, according to Marcia Angell, M. D. , former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine” (What You Should Know About Drugs vs. Herbs) . The FDA should be more efficient at approving the drugs and have stricter guidelines for the safety of people taking the prescribed and over the counter drugs. If we started using herbs more often we would save money, avoid having to deal with unhealthy side effects, and will become healthy as human beings.

Most of the time people choose to take some type of pharmaceutical drug to help them feel or get better. They are not always helping them get better, sometimes actually making them worse. Herbs would be a good alternative to medicines. If we continue to only use drugs for our illnesses our bodies will become damaged. Many people will continue to die from using drugs and do unnecessary harm to their health. Using herbs to substitute for most of pharmaceutical drug usage would heal us in a natural way making all of us healthier. [Manisha]

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