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Herbal medicines: long-time healing miracles or powerful placebo effect inducers

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A reported 16% of prescription drug users also take an herbal medication or supplement (Kaufman et al., 2002). Herbal medication has been around for thousands of years and there has been an increased use of herbal medication as research about it continues. Herbal medications are a type of dietary supplement in which individuals use to treat particular symptoms or conditions and even help prevent certain diseases. Herbal medication is considered a drug that must be prescribed by a doctor in some countries but they are not classified as drugs in the United States. With this being said individuals can use herbal medications with no supervision. Although research is continuously being conducted, many people of unaware of what herbal medication really is and implications for its use, and also how it has impacted Diabetes Mellitus.

As research continues on herbal medication the prevalence of use continues to rise. As stated by Enrlich in 2011, the World Health Organization reported that an estimated 80% of individuals rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health. Although the age range is not specified, a majority of these patients are older adults. Some people who use herbal medicines use them in conjunction with pharmaceuticals but not all due to the research still to be done regarding drug interactions. The main reason people use herbals instead of their prescribed medications is because herbal medications almost always are more inexpensive than their prescribed medications. Another reason why people use herbal medication instead of prescription drugs is because in some cases herbal medicines yield lesser side effects because they are of a natural source (Enrlich, 2011). In many cases, researchers are unaware of exactly which ingredient in particular herb works to treat a condition or illness (Enrlich, 2011). Herbs are often used in conjunction with either other herbal medicines or prescribed drugs to obtain a more effective outcome and also fewer side effects. Herbal medication use has increased tremendously in the recent years and there have been many uses for it. Herbs are used to treat many conditions such as asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, symptoms of menopause, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and, even cancer (Enrlich, 2011). One herb, Kava kava also named Piper methysticum, has been used to elevate mood, enhance well being and produce a feeling of relaxation. However, even though it has produced positive outcomes, research has seen that Kava kava could potential be life-threatening at high doses. Another example is Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), which has been used by many men in the United States to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (Enrlich, 2011). Lastly, certain herbs have been used to treat diabetes, especially the V. cinerea root paste which contains a natural hypoglycemic. Overall, the use of herbal medication has steadily increased as more research is being done. Although herbal medication use may yield fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs, they have their own set of disadvantages.

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Herbal medications have many uses for curing symptoms and preventing some diseases. As previously stated herbal medication has been used to treat Type 2 Diabetes. In a study done to observe how effective V. cinerea root paste, it was found that it actually actively decreases blood glucose levels. Not only did the V. cinerea reduce blood glucose levels, it also had a significant effect on lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The most beneficial aspect of choosing V. cinerea over insulin or other diabetic drugs is that it had no adverse effect on liver function (Sayeed, Mostofa, Ferdous & Islam, 2013). Although, the herbal medicine used had some significant beneficial effects, there are advantages and disadvantages of herbal use. An advantage to herbal medication to treat Type 2 Diabetes is the fact that it contains a natural hypoglycemic. Being a hypoglycemic most herbals aid in lowering levels of glucose in the blood. A disadvantage was that an active ingredient called Chlorpropamide was found in what was said to be an herbal remedy. Chlorpropamide causes potentially severe hypoglycemia and fluid retention due to enhanced secretion of anti-diuretic hormone (Wood, Athwalt & Panahloot, 2003). These adverse effects could potentially be fatal, especially in the elderly and patients who have cardiac problems such as heart failure. Since the effects and interactions of herbal medication are still being researched it is imperative that patients tell their physicians what herbal medicines they are taking with their prescribed drugs. All in all, herbal medication is used to treat many conditions and even helps treat Diabetes Mellitus.

Although herbal remedies have been around for thousands of years, herbal medication use has increased tremendously in the past 30 years. Herbal medication can be used to prevent and treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms. These conditions include migraines, benign prostatic hyperplasia, menopause symptoms, cancer and diabetes. Herbal remedies can be used alone or in conjunction with other herbs or prescribed drugs. Many individuals prefer herbs over pharmaceutical use due to the fact that many herbal medicines yield fewer side effects or adverse effects than prescribed drugs. The fact that here are less adverse effects associated with herbal medicine is the biggest advantage. Another advantage is that many times herbal medicines are less expensive than prescribed drugs, which is beneficial to those who do not have insurance or are financially unstable. On the other hand, the biggest disadvantage is that it is not fully known which ingredients in certain herbals is the one that treats the condition. Another disadvantage is that drug interactions are not known, and many people do not report herbal use to their doctors because of their conceptions of how herbs are supposed to be natural. There are many herbal medications that are thought to cause liver damage due to certain dosages. One cultural competence goal I would implement when thinking about herbal remedies is making sure the patient is aware of the pros and cons of the herb they plan to take. Overall, as previously stated 80% of individuals rely on herbal medications for some part of their primary health. Research and also education in herbal medication continues and there will most likely be an increase in use in the future especially for those who have a difficulty using pharmaceutical drugs.


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