HERBS VS DRUGS! WHICH IS BETTER?
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THE HEALING NATURE OF HERBS
Let us first differentiate between natural medicinal herbs as they are harvested and dried direct
from nature's storehouse and synthetic preparations and medicines which are manufactured in the
chemists' laboratories in duplication of natural plant material.
Most of us are unaware of the differences between the two types of medicines but easily confused
when we are reminded of the fact that many modern drugs are also derived from plant sources, so
would seem to share similarities with herbal medicines. However, there is no real similarity in
quality in relation to the finished product. There can be no comparison between the fresh, dried or
extracted herb which is left complete in its natural composition and the artificial product of the
chemist's laboratory where "active ingredients" have been synthesized. Chemical formulae can
replicate the recipe but cannot reproduce the life element of the original.
Also, any chemical replica of one isolated active principle is very different, both in its composition
and in its use as a medicine, from the harmonious complexity of the original whole natural plant
substance. The practice of isolation of one factor from the whole is indicative of our era of
specialization. Man finds it difficult to understand and respect the wholeness of things and is
currently educated to study, analyse, select and to specialize in a particular sphere only. However,
it is advisable that we remain cognisant of the whole in order to keep a true perspective.
When introduced into the human body, artificially created drugs represent foreign substances,
alien to the natural body chemistry and processes. When administered, they by-pass the
opportunity of natural selection normally undertaken by the digestive processes as in the case
herbs and foods.
Therapists who use herbal medicines are morally free of the cruelties of laboratory drug testing on
animals. Herbs have been tried and tested on human beings over centuries with a long history or
traditional use. This differentiation between the two types of medicine is of particular interest to
The herbalist believes Nature is the supreme authority and believes that substances directly from
nature's laboratory qualify as the simplest and the finest, following Hippocrates whose attitude was
that "Nature heals: the physician is only nature's assistant."
The results of herbal medicine are often slow, but sure. They are safe and can be assimilated by
the body or rejected, according to Nature's direction or selection.
Drugs on the other hand claim spectacular immediate reduction of symptoms but all are
prescribed with some expectation that common side effects will develop to tend to create ongoing
additional symptoms or even serious new disease conditions.
Individuals choose the way they wish to be treated for their health problems. With a choice of
herbal treatment the options are to seek professional help or to follow personal home care for
those who seek to control their own health. For those who do not wish to assume responsibility for
their individual well-being, it is an easy recourse to rely upon a doctor for one's state of health.
However, it is advisable to remember the centuries of experience which gave rise in Chinese
culture, to the philosophy designed to keep physicians honest - that is, their custom of retaining a
doctor and rewarding him as long as the family maintained its health. Once any member became
ill, the physician was likely to be sacked and replaced by a more efficient doctor!
It is fanciful to think, in this modern age, no matter how dedicated and sincere a doctor, that he
spends his hours dwelling on one patient's state of health. He is concerned for the welfare of a
patient in his consulting room but there is no way he can take responsibility for what that patient
does regarding his nutrition, actions, thoughts or habits that will affect him for good or ill outside
the consulting rooms. We continue to contemplate finding the ideal doctor!
Both the techniques and the philosophy of the two major professions of physicians -those who
choose the natural herbs and those who choose chemical drugs, are vastly different.
DRUGS AS MEDICINES
Whilst recognizing the value and successful use of some modern drugs we know that they can be
very immediate in their action and very potent. We are always cautioned in their use and reminded
that modern drugs can be dangerous and will always tend to produce side effects.
There are thousands of new medical drugs being manufactured by pharmaceutical companies
whose products hold a monopoly on medicines in the market place. New drugs are believed to be
rigidly tested and their value under constant scrutiny as evidenced by the existence of the health
authority's Adverse Reactions Sub-committee.
Many drugs have been rejected after trial. There are always new ones to replace the previous
ones. Many are still in the process of experimentation. The value of drugs is always under scrutiny
as evidenced by the need for the existence of the original Commonwealth Drug Evaluation
Committee and its sub-committee, the Adverse Reactions Sub-Committee! (Australia)
Most of us would not care to think that there is any likelihood that the safety and efficacy of any
prescribed medicines is questionable, but when we read the fine print, we understand otherwise.
Nor would we like to think that doctors in the main may have ceased being 'family doctors' and
after extensive years of training are assuming the role of agents for the drug companies that
dictate therapeutic medicine in present day circumstances.
The public is becoming aware of the problems associated with modern drugs and realise how
many new diseases are actually caused by the iatrogenic factor or doctor-induced problems- a
factor that has, without doubt, exacerbated the medical problems of our society both in U.S and in
People are becoming aware of the need to question doctors and not accept blindly the use of new
drugs without information as to possible dangers and statistics related to case histories and trials.
We should also be informed whether a medical drug has been developed and tested on animals
alone, or if it has been applied, successfully, to relieve human beings. Some scientist claim tests
on animals are not valid for humans.
Under the current medical system, Australians have a reputation as one of the worst consumers of
medical and 'recreational' drugs to tarnish our long treasured image as a robust, sporting people,
healthy in mind and body.
Another serious factor is that testing drugs made from chemical substances in the environment of
the body chemistry of each human being is hampered by an unknown factor regarding the
individual's present physiological chemistry. No individual drug can therefore guarantee a uniform
action and uniform side-effect and reaction in each and every case. To quote Richard Thomas in
an article entitled "Drug Induced Haematological Diseases"...
"The problem of establishing cause and effect relationships is made more difficult by the fact that
modern man is rarely exposed to merely one type of foreign chemical at any particular time. A
person may be taking a combination of drugs, not all of which he reports to the physician. He is
also exposed to insecticides, food additives (preservatives, colouring and flavouring agents)
detergents, atmospheric pollution, and special materials used in his occupation."
It is therefore difficult to isolate each separate factor and herein is a serious deterrent for the
continuance of the present system and ample reason to find renewed confidence in the safe,
traditional herbal medicines.
Sally Wilson, professional herbalist and naturopath has wide experience in herbal remedies. Most
dominant is the application of medicinal healing herbs. Traditional herbalism is based on its
principle is to retain the whole plant chemistry as nature has created it. It is this essential that
makes herbal remedies so unique and so safe to use.
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