I was sitting on the couch wondering what I could write about for my next blog post and decided to search the web for ideas when it came to me. I was going to share with you all a paper I had written in my Psychology of Drugs and Behavior class from college. It was my final paper which was to be a persuasive essay about something relevant to the class and showed both sides. I was both impressed and intimidated by other students in the class when they chose topics that when they told me about it, I am pretty sure I gave them a blank stare because I had no clue what they meant.
I picked my topic by chance. I was walking to my car after dinner and stopped inside one of the buildings on the way to use the restroom. On my way out, there is a used book bin for donations and decided to take a look inside. It was then that I found an herbal remedies book and fell in love. So, I started looking through the book I found and instantly knew that this was the topic I had to write about. My teacher gave me his excited approval and I delivered, got an A on my paper! Yay! I really enjoyed that class and wanted to share my paper here with you. I apologize in advance for such a long post (my intro to my paper took longer than I thought haha) and the paper is six pages long including sources. Let me know what you think and if you have any comments on my paper.
Drug & Behavior
Herbal Remedies vs. Pharmaceutical Drugs
When we have a cold and get sick, majority of us turn to some type of cold medicine to help us feel better and attempt to get over the cold faster. If we have a sore throat, we turn to over-the-counter cough syrup to soothe the burn. For me personally, I have gotten strep throat (streptococcal pharyngitis) a couple times and tonsillitis once and I know the pain associated with this infection. Would you believe me if I told you I have prevented myself from getting Strep by simply gargling warm salt water and gargling lemon juice? We have had knowledge about the wonderful healing properties of herbs and natural remedies for centuries, so why have we left all this behind for pharmaceutical pills that were chemically created in a lab? What happened to just drinking a little ginger ale if your stomach hurts? I am not saying that over the counter drugs and prescription medicine are bad or not useful for the purpose that they are intended for, however I believe that we should be focusing more on herbal remedies and more importantly, making the public aware of the correct way to use these remedies in such a way that is safe and effective.
Herbal Remedies Are Better
When you go to the doctor’s office and complain about being restless at night and staying awake all night, many doctors will hand you a prescription for some sleep aid and send you on your way. What doctors should really be doing is taking a few minutes to talk to their patient about what is causing their sleeplessness. Do they drink coffee right before bed? Are they eating a heavy meal before their head hits the pillow? If they cannot get down to the bottom of it, instead of a pill, perhaps an herbal remedy such as chamomile tea or Valerian root to try first. If then these do not work then turn to a prescription. The overall point is that doctors need to take a little more time with their patients to make sure that they are getting the best care possible without trying to meet some prescription quota.
The fact is that herbal remedies should be the first option we turn to. In many ways, herbal remedies are safer than synthetic drugs. It is because they are natural, the body can use it readily rather than in the case of synthetic drugs where the body may need to convert it to one or two other different compounds before using it. Even recently in 2005 (Devitt, 2005), researchers from the National Cancer Institute have attempted to mimic natural compounds in order to hopefully cure cancers. In my opinion, why should we be working hard to mimic natural compounds when these are readily available already? Scientists should put down their Erlenmeyer flasks and pick up a garden spade if they want to make natural compounds.
There are drug treatments that cost hundreds of dollars that one’s insurance may not cover, if they have insurance at all. Herbal remedies can be an inexpensive way to get the same effects as the pricier pharmaceutical competition. For example, Keiley & Bloyd (2007) states, “The popular drug Celebrex…costs more than $4 per day, while the ginger supplements…cost about $0.38 per day.” With pharmaceutical drugs being pricier than naturally occurring herbs, it makes more sense for us to turn to herbal remedies.
Perhaps the reason that doctors do not prescribe herbal remedies more is due to a lack of research on effectiveness of these remedies. It would be beneficial if the pharmaceutical companies focused their research on testing herbal remedies alongside the control and the potential new pharmaceutical drug. James A. Duke, Ph.D “has been campaigning to get a Congressional mandate that an alternative choice for treating a condition must be trialed along with any new drug in order to determine which is most effective, and just as importantly, which has fewer side effects…many new drugs currently are tested only against placebos, rather than existing medications or herbs.” If we were to have these new drugs tested against herbs and current drugs, I am certain that the number of new pharmaceuticals introduced would be greatly decreased as we would find we have what we need already and that most of what can cure us is herbal remedies. It is also important to test the herbal remedies so we can learn more about their properties and whether or not they work. Such little is known about herbal remedies, scientifically, and we need to test them to make or break their claim that they are valid remedies and alternatives to prescriptions.
Concerns About Herbal Remedies
Although herbal remedies can be a safer and more natural way to relieve a myriad of illnesses, there are some concerns with herbal remedies. The first concern is effectiveness. Does the treatment of a particular herb or spice do what the intended effect was? There is relatively little that is known scientifically proving that an herbal remedy works, mainly because different substances affect people differently.
We see this all the time with different drugs and doses, people respond differently to different drugs and herbs as well as different doses of these substances. There is concern with dosing when it comes to herbs, but this can also be said for any drug or supplement a person is taking. Dosage of any medicine is crucial as it separates the therapeutic effects from the toxic effects. Too much of an herb meant for something such as anti-anxiety could possibly hurt rather than help the cause, similar to every drug known to man. The point being that we need to educate those interested in using herbs as medicine on the correct dosage in order to make sure we are helping as many people as possible.
When we think of taking an herbal supplement, not many of us consider how it will interact with any other medicine we may also be taking. It is crucial to educate the public about interactions that are possible when taking herbal remedies. We don’t normally think of herbs as possibly being dangerous however some herbs can interact with other herbs or drugs and complicate things. An example of this is St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) which has been used for more than 2,000 years and helps heal wounds quickly. (Castleman, 1991) St. John’s Wort has recently shown to be a possible AIDS treatment as well as a possible remedy for depression as it acts as a Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO) inhibitor. MAO inhibitors were the first type of antidepressant developed and if used over time, can improve feelings of self worth and increase interest in life. (Depression, 2013).
It is important to know that while taking St. John’s Wort, there can be some very serious drug interactions that can hurt you rather than help treat depression. Not even considering any pharmaceutical drugs that one could be taking, Castleman says that while taking St. John’s Wort, do not drink beer, wine, coffee, salami, or even pickled items. (Castleman, 1991) These interactions can cause hypertensive crisis, or dangerously high blood pressure, headache, nausea, clammy skin, and even taking high doses of St. John’s’ Wort then going out in the sunlight can cause a blistering sunburn. In extreme cases, rats injected with large doses then exposed to sunlight have died. (Castleman, 1991) Knowing drug interaction information is very helpful when turning to herbal remedies so no complications occur and the herb can do its healing to get the user back to 100% as quickly as possible.
Sometimes We Just Need Drugs
Even with all the access to different herbs and spices, there are sometimes that we need to turn to pharmaceutical drugs to get us by. Sometimes we need the magic that I know as an inhaler so I can breathe correctly. There are times we need immediate relief such as a person in ICU in a hospital in immense pain, and it is simply faster and easier to give them one Valium to take away the temporary pain. I believe we need to evaluate each situation and act according to that situation. I feel required to say that although this paper has hopefully opened your eyes to the wonderful powers of herbal medicines, it is important to talk to your doctor or physician before starting any regimen in order to make sure the herb will be beneficial as well as making sure there will be no bad interactions. As a whole however, I would like to see more people turning to herbal remedies to relieve pain and illness rather than immediately turning to pharmaceutical pills for the cure.
Castleman, M. (1991). The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicines. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press.
Depression – Major Depressive Disorder. (2013, June 21). Retrieved December 1, 2015.
Devitt, T. (2005, July 20). Scientists to Mimic Nature for Newest Cancer Drugs. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
Keiley, L., & Bloyd, S. (2007). Herbs vs. Drugs: Get the Facts About Medicine. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
Taylor, D., Walsham, N., Taylor, S., & Wong, L. (2006, April 23). Complementary and alternative medicines versus prescription drugs. Retrieved November 1, 2015
Vincent C, Furnham A. Why do patients turn to complementary medicine? Brit J Clin Psych 19963537–48. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
Corbett, H. (2012, February 14). Natural Alternatives To The Top 10 Most Prescribed Drugs. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
FDA regulation of drugs versus dietary supplements. (2015, March 31). Retrieved November 1, 2015.