Sage advice is hard to find


In February I wrote about the media reporting on dangerous herbal medicines being used in Australia and the overseas (see `Dangerous’ Herbal Medicine in the News). One of the big points made was that it is important to let your medical team know when you are taking herbal remedies, that way they can tell you if there are any interactions between what they might prescribe and what you are already taking.

Eilish O’Regan reported in an Irish newspaper that doctors are more clueless than the rest of us when it comes to herbal remedies.  “…a new survey of medics across Europe, including Irish doctors, has revealed that nearly one in two described their knowledge of herbal medicines as poor or very poor.  Another 34.4pc said it was neither good nor poor.” says O’Regan.

This begs the question, if doctors have no knowledge of herbal remedies, how are they to advise us about interactions?  Unfortunately I have found that most of the more ignorant doctors will just advise their patients against taking herbal remedies altogether. It is such a shame when the two – herbal and modern medicine – can and should go hand in hand to provide the patient with the best possible care.

More and more people globally reach towards herbal medicine to fill the (many) voids left by modern medicine. It is counter productive and downright dangerous for doctors not to keep up with health trends. Patients will just self diagnose and with good intention, but not necessarily fully educated, take whatever herbal remedy they believe is best for their situation.

What doctors SHOULD be doing, is educate themselves, at least on a rudimentary level and if they are out of their depth with a patient’s enquiry direct them towards a professional medical herbalist for more in depth advise.  There are many herbal references written for medical practitioners which provide the type of information a well informed doctor needs to know. My favourite clinical reference, which was recommended by my own medical doctor, is  Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide
It lists 120 of the most popular herbs, nutrients and food supplements used across Australia and New Zealand, giving details on daily intake, main actions/interactions, adverse reactions and drug interactions.

It is my wish – as idealistic as it may be – that modern doctors have the patient’s best at heart without the manipulation by pharmaceutical giants who walk all over the smaller, healthier, more natural alternatives.  It doesnt have to be an us and them attitude – all can work in harmony, all has it’s place.

Ok, I’m off my soapbox now….

Stay herbal

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