Sunday, May 13, 2012

Herbal Remedies - Why Use Them?

Understanding the nature of synthetic medicine.

To understand why we should use herbs as medicine, we need to understand the concept of synthetic medicine.

The base of synthetic medicines is the active ingredients of plants. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions on research to not only isolate the active ingredients but also to synthesize and patent it. However, isolating only the active ingredient to be used can be a case of too much of a good thing. For example, taking lots of white willow bark (where aspirin is derived from) will not have much effect to your body but consuming a bottle of aspirin may let you meet your maker.

It is undeniable that while synthetic medicines work, they also come with certain side effects. This shows that your body is rejecting it as the body recognizes the substance as something unnatural and should be purged, hence such side effects occur. For example taking finasteride (a synthetic component used in the treatment of an enlarged prostate), may lead to severe allergic reactions such as hives, tightness in the chest and depression, amongst others. Sometimes, the allergic reactions can even lead to death. However, with herbal medicines, people rarely get allergic reactions. Nevertheless, like all medicines, consult a reputed herbal practitioner or doctor if you are planning to take any herbs for any form of illness.

A plant or any part of the plant is a truly complex compound and each part works together in harmony to balance out each other. While extensive research has been done regarding the active ingredients in plants for medicines, there is a very limited amount of scientific literature on how using the entire plant helps in healing a person. This does not mean that there is no evidence. The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda which utilize herbs as medicines have been around for centuries and have been proven to work.

Problems with synthetic medicine

The effect of drug pollution on the environment

Our planet is small. What comes around goes around. Ever wondered what happens to all the unused or expired drugs? How are they disposed of? Thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet? Our body does not even digest all contents of the medicine. It ends up going through the sewage system and back to the soil and water; eventually coming back to us. Each day, with each gulp of water, we are consuming a brew of minuscule amounts of various medicines.

The water treatment plants are not fully equipped to purify the traces of these drugs before it is released to the public for consumption. The problem at hand is that studies prove the safe consumption level of one particular drug but what about a whole group of them? There is no telling what will be done to the human body if a mixture of all these drugs in low levels come together and is consumed for a long period of time.

It also affects the ecosystem as these low levels for humans are actually toxic to various creatures in nature. Hormones found in oral contraceptives have been found to cause a feminization in species of fish such as bass, where some males carry eggs or develop female reproductive parts. This creates an impact as the fish will not be able to reproduce as they once used to hence decreasing the population. As such, predators that prey on these fish reduce in number and the food source increase, disrupting the environment.

These low level pollutions also contribute to the evolution of a Superbug which means the creation of bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics. To combat this, stronger antibiotics will be manufactured to fight these bacteria. But, just what is the cost of it to our bodies? There are proven results regarding the short term effects but at such a high dose, we are just guinea pigs for the long term effects of the ever increasing dose of antibiotics.

Why use herbs?

Switching to herbs as a medicine or as a supplement for your health can significantly reduce pollution and even the decimation of ecosystems provided organic farming and responsible harvesting is practiced. Doing away with harmful pesticides and preserving practices that are in line with nature ensures that the natural ecosystem is maintained, creating a low carbon footprint.

Herbs work in a wholesome manner to heal your body unlike synthetic medicine that targets the symptoms without curing the cause of these effects. When herbs are disposed of, they create virtually no pollution as they are organic by themselves and will decompose fully. In the long run, you benefit as well because the cost of herbs is significantly lesser than buying synthetic medicines.

Some may complain that the time frame to heal taken by herbal medicine is significantly longer compared to synthetic medication. True, it does take a long time but it is because it fights off the infection and gently guides the healing process without submitting your body to a lot of shock. For example, gingko, if consumed regularly, helps to promote blood circulation which in turn improves sight, boosts the immune system and helps to regulate cholesterol.

The use of synthetic medicines cannot be completely ruled out though. In dire cases, synthetic medicines may actually save lives but there is no need for it to be the answer to everything. Herbal supplements and remedies that maintain your overall health and keep you in tip-top shape are better than any synthetic medication taken for mild symptoms like headaches. After all, our forefathers have consumed these medicinal plants for eons. Their efficacy in healing is proven with generations of results.



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