In the last few years several popular drugs were recalled for safety reasons.
Although these drugs were approved by the Federal Drug Administration, some people suffered side affects and a few even died as a result of taking these drugs. Add to this the rising cost of prescription medicine, and the increasing number of reports about severe side effects that come with prescription drugs, and many people are now looking for alternatives. Thankfully there are many.
Alternative and herbal medicine has been around for centuries.
Evidence of using herbs for medicine have appeared in cave paintings that are estimated to have been made between 13,000 and 25,000 BC. Most of our modern day synthetic prescription drugs have been based on natural substances fund in medicinal plants.
While there is evidence showing that herbal medicine has been in use as far back as the Neanderthal period, many people argue that herbal remedies and medicines are not valid. They argue that because there have not been enough scientific studies performed to prove or disprove claims herbal cures can't be trusted.
Herbalists, people who specialize in herbal medicine, feel that a lot of the attempts to discredit herbal remedies and cures are brought on primarily due to money.
Pharmaceutical companies are not able to patent a natural medication, so the wide spread use of these herbal remedies would essentially put them out of business. Since they would be unable to corner a market and charge outrageous amounts of money for prescription only medications if herbs were too widely used, they must create synthetic versions in order to remain in profit; therefore, they must discredit herbs for use in various medical treatments in order to keep people buying their prescription medications.
There is also a problem with consumers not having enough knowledge about the correct use of herbal medicine. For instance, some people believe that as long as something is "natural", then it must be safe to use. This is far from the truth. Many things found in nature are quite poisonous. The rhubarb plant, for example, will give us nutritious vegetables to eat; however, if you try to use the leaves from that plant for either food or medicine, you can go into convulsions and possibly die.
Certain medicinal herbs can sometimes cause problems. Golden Seal for instance, is a very powerful natural antibiotic herb. But it's also a natural source of insulin, so it can cause severe problems if taken by a hypoglycemic--someone who has low blood sugar.
Herbs can interact with other herbs or prescription medications too, and many people don't seem to realize this. Taking an herb that boosts your energy for instance, such as ephedra or Ginseng, will do just that. If taken in large amounts, you risk having heart palpitations. Also, if you take these herbs with large amounts of caffeine - such as drinking sodas, coffee, or tea - you also risk having heart palpitations. Heart palpitations can lead to more severe emergencies such as a heart attack.
Generally, it's more common to see a lot of news coverage when someone has problems using medicinal herbs or natural cures. Usually, if you dig into the facts a bit deeper, there are far more cases of severe health problems and side effects with "approved" prescription drugs than there are with alternative herbal remedies. Nevertheless, trends show the general public continues to become more educated on these topics, and herbal health care practices continue to grow astronomically.
Statements made in this article may not be approved by the FDA, and should not be taken as professional medical advice.
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