Herbal remedies compete with traditional medicine

GERMANY - From a chamomile infusion for a cold or some fennel tea for an upset stomach, herbal remedies are becoming increasingly popular and are believed to strengthen the body’s immune system.

By (DPA)

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Published: Mon 19 Jan 2009, 9:33 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:40 AM

Though often self-prescribed, these treatments are gaining acceptance among practitioners of traditional medicine.

“Patients want to avoid the side effects of traditional therapies by turning to natural remedies,” says Gustav Dobos, professor of internal medicine and Chairholder of Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The Central Association of Doctors for Natural Medicine (ZAEN) also believes herbal and natural remedies are gaining acceptance, especially among people with allergies and chronic health problems.

“We don’t want to condemn traditional medicine. Natural medicine is no substitute. But you can be more successful if you work on two tracks,” says ZAEN spokeswoman and general practitioner Christel Papendick.

Traditionally, herbal remedies are used to combat minor ailments that can be treated without a doctor. Cloisters and monasteries were the original groundbreakers for herbal medicine, helping to spread them across Europe during the Middle Ages and into the 15th century, says Dobos. Hildegard, a Benedictine nun from Bingen, who lived from 1089 to 1179, was one of the best-known practitioners. Today, some monasteries still have gardens focused on herbal medicine.

“There’s something that reduces the problems and speeds up the healing for almost every illness,” says Johannes Gottfried Mayer of the University of Wuerzburg. He runs a research group that focuses on the medical discoveries of monasteries.

Research shows that willow bark was used to combat fever and pain as early as the 13th century. In the 19th century, researchers discovered that the plant’s active ingredient was acetyl salicylic acid (ASS), a substance used in modern pain relievers.

Mayer says people are beginning to turn to natural remedies amid growing scepticism about the ability of high-tech solutions to solve all health problems. In addition, most of these herbal remedies are easier for the body to process. “The mildness of plant remedies is the most interesting part, especially when it comes to treating children,” he says.

The only irony is that some plants that can be used medicinally present huge problems for people who could benefit from herbal remedies: the allergic. Plants from the daisy family such as leopard’s bane or marigolds can cause allergic reactions and should be used with caution.

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