Thursday, 30 December 2010

Herbal medicine

There is a commonly held belief that herbal remedies are somehow safe because they are “natural”. There is also some confusion between homeopathy and herbalism which reinforces this view. Homeopathy is of course totally safe as it does not have anything in it, but that does not stop some people believing it works. For possibly the most extreme and deluded view on what it is effective for look at this, and weep.

Herbal products however often contain active pharmacological substances some of which can be toxic. You would think therefore that those who favour herbal medicine would approve of measures to make the practice safer. Testing to ensure quality and safety of herbal products is to become mandatory next year, although there will still be no requirement to show efficacy. 

These are fairly basic and desirable requirements I would have thought, but the advocates of herbal medicine disagree. They feel that the standards applicable to pharmaceutical products should not apply to them. They feel they should continue to be able to dispense potentially toxic substances, with little or no efficacy and potentially serious side effects without regulation.

If you read the comments to these two articles (1) (2) it is clear that there is a great deal of utter ignorance and stupidity out there. The usual ill informed views are peddled, including the accusation that this is all a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies, and doctors are all in their pay.

Now I know the pharmaceutical giants are not without fault, and I will be posting in the near future on one of their nastier practices. But by and large they deliver the goods. In just 100 years their products have transformed the practice of medicine and contributed enormously to the huge increase in life expectancy. An increase not found in the days when CAM practices were all there was to give patients. 

And at least I know if I take a modern drug what is in it, what is not in it, it’s exact strength and how it might react with other medication I might be on. I know the company has spent millions on testing it and that they are not allowed to promote it for conditions for which it has no license. 

Which is more than you can say for herbal medicine.


  1. Thanks for pointing me to that article, Z. I can now stop my 5 injections a day and take Apoc. Carc. Kali-n. Squil. and Uran-n. instead for the diabetes :-P

  2. Am astonished to learn that homeopathic products can prevent children from going missing. I often get a bit edgy when I'm somewhere crowded that my Little One will evade my sight for a moment and get lost. Pop him a pill and he'll never leave my side. Fabulous.

  3. It was a very informative post. Herbal medicine should be made with some governmrnt forced standards.