NATURAL REMEDIES and MEDICINAL PLANTS: Effective or Not?

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According to a study by the Office of Technology Assessment, in the United States, only 20% of the remedies currently in use have a scientifically proven efficacy. It is not that they are devoid of good effects: most have them. But their benefits can come from a placebo effect that would be described as the only way to heal helps the patient to heal.

The placebo effect and the effectiveness of natural remedies and medicinal plants

The placebo effect is at its peak when patients are concerned about finding something that can improve their health . The underlying psychological and physiological mechanisms are complex and poorly understood. It seems that the simple act of looking for, finding and taking a natural remedy or a medicinal plant gives us the feeling of controlling our health and this feeling makes the remedy more effective.

Doctors themselves say that in the face of many possible treatments, patients will be better off if they are given the choice after making the good and the bad news.

Is it surprising to discover so many connections between the mind and the physical? Scientists and doctors are not surprised; they know that the immune system and the brain are intimately linked. Thoughts circulating in our head can alter our immune response. By using various pathways, such as specialized nerve relays and chemical messengers, they can hinder or strengthen our immune system .

Some medicinal plants and natural remedies well and truly effective

That said, the studies cited earlier in this chapter show that block rejection of medicinal plants is meaningless. Some may have only a placebo effect, but others contain pharmacologically active elements. So you have to experiment – safely.

Until recently, it was almost impossible to find scientifically valid studies on the safety and efficacy of medicinal plants. Reports were often anecdotal – unconfirmed testimonials from anonymous patients – or relied on data from manufacturing laboratories and never confirmed by an independent authority.

Today is much better. Authentic research has been published in major medical journals and others are in progress. Although credible information on natural health products is available today , be careful when using any of these products for the first time. Take them to treat problems that you know are benign – or that self-regulate over time, such as colds. Otherwise, tell your doctor, especially if you have a serious or chronic illness.

According to a study from the University of California at San Francisco, asthmatics who were on alternative therapies were hospitalized more often than those treated by conventional means; a poorly chosen plant and useless therapy delayed the diagnosis and the introduction of effective treatments by allergists and respirologists.

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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