No prescription? No problem! Herbal and Alternative Medicines

11Mar

Going to the doctor might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about medicine. But did you know that there is an enormous range of complementary and alternative therapies? Complementary describes those methods which are used together with conventional medicine, while alternative describes methods which are used instead of mainstream treatments. Herbal medicine falls under these two categories.

Herbal medicine is believed to be the oldest known form of healing. It involves the use of plants and plant materials in the treatment of disease and to promote overall wellness. Herbs contain naturally occurring chemicals which share a similar pattern of biological activity to many pharmaceutical drugs. In fact, some common drugs are still derived from plants.

Remedies come in a wide variety of forms such as tablets, powders, teas, liquid extracts, oils and ointments. They are growing in popularity due to their healing properties and potentially reduced side-effects compared to other medications, affordability and the fact that many do not require a prescription from a doctor to acquire. They are particularly useful in the treatment of conditions such as headaches, colds and flu, infections, allergies, asthma, arthritis, inflammation, skin problems, stress and anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart and circulatory conditions and women’s health issues. Herbal and alternative care generally takes a holistic approach meaning it focuses on the ‘whole’ person and not just the disease.

Some of the most common herbal remedies include:

  • Ginger– shown to be effective in treating nausea, such as morning sickness or motion sickness
  • Garlic– regulates blood pressure and lowers levels of cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease as well as antibiotic properties useful in fighting colds and respiratory infections
  • Turmeric– high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Rosemary – stimulates energy and improves memory and concentration by supplying oxygen to the brain
  • Peppermint – often brewed in tea, it can relieve stomach discomforts such as indigestion and vomiting
  • Chamomile – treats nervous stress, colic and stomach disorders
  • Ginseng– lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduces stress, boosts energy, useful in the treatment of diabetes, aids recovery from illness
  • Echinacea– stimulates the immune system, helping the body to fight infection
  • St John’s wort– believed to be as effective as some antidepressant drugs in treating depression, anxiety and insomnia
  • Dong quai– used in issues relating to women’s reproductive health such as period pain and menopause symptoms

As with all medical treatments, it is important to take precautions when applying them. This is especially true of alternative therapies. Many herbs have potent ingredients which can cause adverse effects if used incorrectly. Some herbs can interfere with the effectiveness of other prescribed medications so make sure you check with your doctor before introducing them to your health regime. It is also very important not to cease your conventional medications or treatments and replace them with herbal medicines unless your doctor supports this decision.

Herbal medicine should be used as carefully as prescriptive drugs, if not more so. In fact, prescription and over-the-counter medicines undergo rigorous testing and regulation to ensure they are safe, while herbal medicines are generally not subjected to the same level of regulation so may not be manufactured to the same quality and standard. Choose pure, high-quality products from reputable stores and be very cautious of purchasing herbs online or from overseas sellers.

Furthermore, there is also a shortage of scientific study conducted around the use of certain herbs, meaning there is an increased level of risk associated with taking them. Always follow the dosage instructions and seek medical aid if you experience negative side effects.

For more information about alternative and herbal medicines, visit your local Chemistworks and ask our staff to assist you.