Herbal medicines and other remedies

Herbal medicines

Herbal medicines are substances derived from plant sources and used to treat a variety of human illnesses. Some people regard herbal medications as a "natural" way to attain health. Their attitude contradicts that of those who think that most herbal medication is quackery, and that only those drugs manufactured by the drug industry and approved by the Food and Drug Administration are effective. The true value of herbal medicines probably lies between these two extremes. Plants and trees historically have been the source of many effective drugs, such as digitalis for the treatment of heart conditions and quinine for the treatment of malaria. Drug companies still routinely cultivate botanical sources in their search for new and more powerful drugs. The problem with many herbal medicines purchased today in health food stores is the lack of pharmacological testing of these products and of information regarding their actions and effectiveness. However, a lack of demonstrable pharmacologic activity does not mean necessarily that the herbal preparation is useless Conversely, the mere fact that a herb has been used for hundreds of years does not in itself attest to any actual pharmacologic value

The accompanying table provides a simple listing of herbal substances, including the common name for names of each herb and its ascribed medicinal use, according to the general public This table should not be construed as implying that the medicinal claims therein have been scientifically proven. Only limited scientific investigation supports any of these claims. A more detailed list of herbal medications is available'

Other remedies

Homeopathic medicines-A drug is considered to be a homeopathic medicine only if it is recorded in the "homeopathic provings." This means that the drug has been proved to produce either psychic effects or physical benefits when given to healthy people. The homeopathic medicine must be, as nearly as possible, the same substance that was used in the original "provings." An official compendium known as the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia provides directions for the selection and preparation of remedies to be prescribed by the homeopathic physicians Homeopathic medicines are derived from plants, animals, minerals and synthetic chemicals. Examples include optimum sanctum (purple-stalked basil!; glandula thyroidea Thyroid extract'; calcarea carbonica (calcium carbonated and the sulfa drug, sulfanilamide.

Chinese herbal medicines- are used primarily by people of Chinese origin, for common ailments such as excessive "endogenous heat" (a concept in tradi-tional Chinese medicine) cough, phlegm, and indi-gestion. About 7,000 species of medicinal plants are used in China, but only 230 of the most commonly used have been subjected to intensive pharmacologi-cal studies. Some examples of these herbal medi-cines and their botanical names are Gancao (GZy-cyrriAzia glabra); Ginseng (Panox ginseng); and Caowu (Aconitum kusnezoffii) These medicines are available individually, or may be combined by the herbalist into a final product. The choice of a specific combi-nation of herbs and other ingredients may be based upon the individual's own experience or beliefs; a patient may request to be seen by one of the herbal-ists associated with a particular drugstore and to be given an individualized prescription. Alternatively, a druggist may decide which combination of ingredients is best for a specific patient.

Chinese patent medicines- combine different Chinese herbal medicines into one product in order to achieve synergism of the beneficial effects and(or to minimize the adverse reactions of some of the ingre-dients. These patent medicines contain multiple herbal extracts and)or the addition of traditional Western drugs or earth metals. Ingredients may vary according to the country of export. In Hong Kong, Chinese patent medicines are readily available with-out prescription as over-the-counter drugs. Examples of Chinese patent medicines are Dr. Tong Shap Yee's asthma pills; Hung Fa Oil; Leung Put Kee cough pills; and Pak Fa Oil.

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