Health with herbs

I was a medical student, the professor of pharmacology was lecturing in a hurry the famous three-volume book that he had memorized. And we were struggling to note down every word uncomprehendingly. We would memorize them to get a passing grade. In the break time, I wanted to talk to professor about some herbs and their traditional use. As soon as the professor hears the words out of my mouth, he said:

– Forget these folk remedies. Don’t you want to be a doctor?

During my whole medical education, I could not find the courage to ask one more question to that professor.

I loved pharmacology that has been lectured to us (I don’t know if they still lecture that way) and found out how pleasant and important it is during my education in Ege University Faculty of Pharmacy, ARGEFAR department.

Heating and melting a drug, working through combinations are such a great pleasure for a physician. It’s like breathing the same air with the former physicians. Recently our relation with drugs seems so mechanical.

I certainly know that it’s a luxury for a physician on the go, in this disorganized healthcare system to find time to do all these. But still I say, each physician should visit that lab at least once, should contribute actively in the preparation stage of the magistral drug he/she had planned.

I would write about the perspective that refuses herbal products. Let’s get to the point. Recent researches indicate that 25% of the US pharmaceutical market consists of herbal drugs. In 1994, 1.6 billion dollars were spent on herbal drugs in the USA. In 1998 this amount increased to 4 billion. Sale of herbal products continue beyond physicians’ knowledge and interest in our country. Whereas the main drugs we use are not different from the phytotherapeutic drugs.

Digitalis which is a powerful cardiotonic, is a foxglove derivative.

Aspirin is a synthetic imitation of the salicin obtained from the bark of white willow tree.

Reserpine, a hypertension medicine, is actually a remedy from India derived from an Asian shrub

Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine found in many over the counter cold remedies are used in China to treat cold and flu for more than five thousand years and are derived from the ephedra plant.

Quinine, a famous malaria treatment and quinidine, an antiarrhythmic medication are the bark of the cinchona tree derivatives.

Vincristine and Vinblastine, the two important and successful cancer treatments, are derived from the rosy periwinkle tree, native to southern Madagascar.

Taxol, derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, is used to treat advanced ovarian cancer.

This list can be extended. Physicians should learn more about herbs. They must lead on this issue. Our traditional art of medicine should be examined thoroughly and should be integrated into modern age without underestimating.

I feel that some of us show displeasure. So I’m going to exemplify acupuncture. Acupuncture having been applied in China for five thousand years, has been undervalued and refused under the influence of western medicine after 1800s until 1930s. After the Chinese Revolution, they provided all sorts of support for traditional Chinese medicine by command of Mao Tzedung. On this date, this treatment method found worldwide acceptance.

We know that the first healing centers of the world were in Pergamum, in Anatolia. Hippocrates is from Anatolia. He lived in the island of Cos. In the Seljuk period, Gevher Nesibe Medical Madrasah applied great treatment methods such as music therapy and its archeological remains are still found in Kayseri. We have sufficient background and history on this subject. The traditional and the scientific do not always conflict with each other. It’s written on the famous Ebers Papyrus that Egyptians were applying moldy bread on wounds. Alexander Fleming revealed the scientificity amongst traditional by discovering that Penicillin is a fungus. It’s our job to prove the scientificity amongst traditional. And I’m very excited about the collaborative effort on this subject.

My greetings to my pharmacology professor and our universities…

Introduction to Phytotherapy

Phytotherapy is the branch that uses medicinal plants and herbal medicines for treatment.

It is widely preferred in European Countries, particularly in Germany. 600-700 herbal drugs are being sold in health product stores such as pharmacies and drugstores. 80% of German physicians have received phytotherapy training. Unfortunately in our country, it is not included in medical faculty curriculum. However a high quality educational program is offered to physicians and pharmacists at Ege University, Faculty of Pharmacy, ARGEFAR department by special efforts of Prof. Ulvi Zeybek and his staff. I’m also proud to receive training from this organization.

The German “Commission E” was established in 1978 within regulations made by Ministry of Health of Germany. Clinicians, pharmacologists, toxicologists, pharmaceutical botanists, pharmacognosts, pharmacists and representatives of pharmaceutical manufacturers have participated in this commission.

European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) was founded in 1989. Prof. Kemper (Germany) is the president, Dr. Jan G Bruhn (Sweden) is the coordinator.

Herbal drugs have the same criteria as synthetic drugs to be counted as medication. Unfortunately, a plant being sold in herbalist’s shop is not a medical herb.

1.7 billion dollars of annual herbal medicine costs in Germany are within the scope of health insurance.

The most commonly prescribed and used drugs are listed below:

Ginkgo biloba (elephant ear)

Piper methysticum (kava-​kava)

Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice)

Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort)

Valeriana officinalis (valerian)

Zingiber officinale (ginger)

Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn)

Echinacea pallida (echinacea)

A research conducted by WHO (World Health Organization) determined the number of herbs registered in Pharmacopoeia, medically used and merchandised in 5 different countries as 1.900.

I believe that this subject is such important that it cannot be ignored by medical platforms and authorities and cannot be committed to only herbalists’ monopoly in Anatolia with its rich vegetation and perfect climate living four seasons and having Lokman Hekim in national culture. (Let us mention that we are grateful to the herbalists for pursuing our traditional art of medicine and our healing traditions from history.) But this mission must be adopted by scientific authorities.

Fortunately, in our country, Association of All Pharmacists Cooperatives (TEKB) produces drugs ​​under the name of herbal tea planted and harvested in accordance with scientific criteria. This is also something. Better than nothing.

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