In the last 20 years increasingly interest on several types of remedies such as teas, tablets and/or tinctures that are now can be found in health stores, pharmacies, in some clinics and mostly purchased online. It is now very simple to prepare herbal medicines at home. On the other a lot of people who are interested have many questions like...
Do herbal medicines really prevent illness?
Do these kind of market workers or herbal practitioners actually have enough knowledge on your problems like sinus congestion or your chronically occurred stomach pain?
Do these people really have enough education and/or experience on botany or pharmacy or chemistry or are they only good on speaking and do their best to persuade you?
Are you really sure which plants extract you bought? Can you trust the labels?
How will the herb work? Are there safety issues?
Is a single herb or a combination better? If You will use a combination then how can you sure that it will not stop the effect the other?
Is it expensive or when you find the same one cheaper is it really effective?
Can I use the herbal remedies with my medicines or is it dangerous or is there a risk of interaction?
Is there a method for standardization?
These and similar questions are not new and unique to you. Ethnobotany is one of the world’s oldest interests. When confronted by illness human beings use many herbal formulas developed locally. These local formulas are generally very useful and mostly safe. On the other hand some formulas used globally and many other similar remedies can be found in different regions. But this causes a confusion. Especially when the taxonomy of the herb is not well known many wrong remedies can be used. But if the formula is correct they are very useful. These remedies have fast and visible positive effects. Herbal remedies that’s why generally support the human health and effective on minor acute problems but sometimes also used for chronic health conditions. Many remedies can be taken long term to promote performance.
As they are natural products, herbs are a permanently renewable resource. By the middle of the 20th century especially in Western Countries conventional medicines like antibiotics had almost entirely replaced old traditional remedies. Salix sp. originated aspirin for instance is then made by petroleum with a similar structural formula. But many factors effected people’s choices so especially in the last 20 years more people are trend to herbal medicines. One of the factor of this trend change is maybe to reach a doctor easier than a century before or opposite never can reach a good doctor in many other countries or places. In some ideas a “back to the nature” trend is increasing which is an other important factor. Pressure of globalism on medicine industry can be an other issue, which causes a real mistrust. In some countries herbal medicines are cheaper while in some others more expensive
Total sales of herbal supplements in the US have increased each year since 2004, with sales of these products more than doubling during this period. Among the top-selling herbal dietary supplements in mainstream US retail outlets, products with horehound (Marrubium vulgare, Lamiaceae) listed as the primary ingredient have grossed the highest sales each year since 2013, and this remained true in 2018. Herbal supplement sales in the US experienced record growth in 2018, increasing by an estimated 9.4% from 2017. Consumers spent a total of $8.842 billion on herbal supplements across all market channels in 2018. This marks the strongest US sales growth of herbal supplements since 1998.
Legislation in the EU has established quality standards and labelling requirements for herbal remedies that should guarantee the quality of most products sold in health food stores and pharmacies. European pharmaceutical law classifies herbal products as “regular” medicinal products if they claim to treat or prevent illness or if they are to be administered with a view to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions. Several decisions of the European Court of Justice confirm this status. There are examples where a herbal preparation, such as peppermint tea, could be either food or medicine, depending on the claim made for the product. In other cases, such as for senna extract, a product has to be declared a medicine (notwithstanding the labelled claim) by virtue of its pharmacological action: in this case that of a laxative stimulant. The characteristics of herbal medicinal products make regulatory assessment difficult and present a challenge to health agencies and national authorities. For centuries, herbal medicinal products have been part of cultural heritage. This may be one reason why herbal medicinal products continue to be widely used in Germany. In a recent study, more than 70% of the German population declared that they used natural medicines, and for most of them herbal medicinal products were the first choice in the treatment of minor diseases or disorders. With 39% of the total European market, the German market holds the biggest share by value, followed by France (29%), Italy (7%), Poland (6%) and the United Kingdom (6%). It is important to stress that in Germany and some other European Union countries, herbal medicines are fully integrated into conventional therapies, especially by general practitioners. The share in the prescribed herbal medicines market is 73% in France, 43% in the United Kingdom and 38% in Germany.
In Turkey the situation is complicated as the registered OTC’s are approximately only 10% of the total market and registrations are not controlled by only Ministry of Health buy also by Ministry of Agriculture. Many products from China and other countries are full in the market. This causes unexpected health problems and although there are many cited researches in the institutes but people mostly follow the internet fenomens or some imprinted brand names on TV who actually have only popularity. People also trust more than doctors or experts to suggestions of friends or neighbours like in many other countries. This cause some kind of popular herbal remedies and these fashions pass very quickly to an other. On the other hand the total potential of ethnobotany in Turkey is incredible as the flora is unique. There are some formulas extending to 1000 years and still possible to prepare.
Especially in the winter time the use of “tea” as a herbal remedy increases. There are many types of leaves and extracts you can find in the shops or internet. On the other hand it is not always easy to reach the real plant species and to the exact necessary phytochemical. As an example when you mention “thyme” this means locally one species BUT thyme is the common name of the genus Thymus from the family Lamiaceae which the first record was officially in 1753 and until that time 1728 plant names including the species, subspecies accepted names and several other synonyms. Now 241 accepted Thymus species are recorded. Some plant species smells like thyme but actually they are not even related and their phytochemical composition is totally different. Similarly when you say “mint” this means 2420 different names. On the other hand some species like Aloe vera is only one species with very small variations. But even with this little species group there are 1304 records in GenBank. So even in the very well known names you may need an expert but a real expert.
Drug production has become one of the most profitable sectors in health services. This leads to excessive amounts of profits in the pharmaceutical sector, and leads to problems related to unnecessary drug use by people. While several major problems concerning drugs such as price policies, patent, promotion activities for physicians, data protection occurs in the world, the attempts of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) has gained considerable impetus lately. Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs are the drugs that are easily accessible from pharmacies without any prescription from a physician. These drugs are safe for short-term use and effective for minor common diseases. The advice of a pharmacist is sufficient to use OTC drugs or as directed on the label. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines OTC drugs as safe and effective when used according to the label instructions and without a prescription, also when used in compliance with a health professional advice if necessary. A great majority of pharmacists are willing to dispense these drugs in pharmacies rather than in gross market or chain drug stores. More than half of the pharmacists think that OTC regulations made by the Government are being planned to sell the drugs out of pharmacies in Turkey. On the other hand there is no data still if the pharmacist made this suggestions because of the responsible idealism on “common health” or simply not want to “share the market”. The use of OTC’s trend can be change by age and gender. As an example in Turkey 71.7% of university students use medicines and half of them use drugs without prescription although most of these medicines are free for them. They mostly read and understand the leaflets but 31% of them recommended their medicine from their relatives and this is higher for OTC. Mostly analgesics, common cold combinations and vitamins are talked. Girls use more than the boys. In the first two years of their graduation they go to the doctors but in the later two years they reduce this trend. Experience on their own health problems and its solutions may be an important reason. This trend increase with the age that is possibly because of boring of using medicines defined as “useless” and search for an alternative herbal product which has some “miracle” effects without any side effects.
Millions of people take ginkgo on a daily basis in order to maintain healthy blood flow and to support concentration. Symptoms of sore throat suggesting the start of a viral infection can be treated using remedies like echinacea or sage or linden. Herbs can prove extremely helpful in promoting physical performance. Remedies such as garlic or lemon form a regular part of many people’s diets and are therefore used as both food and medicine. The ability of ginger to relieve nausea and vomiting is strongly supported by clinical studies. On the other hand some remedies can be toxic or allergic in different way of extraction. Besides some remedies are illegal to use in many countries. The use in pregnancy and during breast feeding period is also very limited. The safety of herbal remedies and their effectiveness as medicines is not easy to establish. Clearly knowledge about how herbs work comes from: Use as food or food supplement, Traditional knowledge and ethnobotanical survey of use as medicine, the experience of herbal practitioners, scientific research and personal homeostasis. In a scientific investigation researchers can investigate the chemistry of the plant with its constituents and their actions, the plant’s part use and safety issues, how to extract and process the remedy or therapeutic use of this extract with clinical traits such as dosage levels, safety and evidence of effectiveness. Observation of how animals use medicinal plants has undoubtedly been a key factor behind the traditional use of many plants that’s why nature itself is an other source. Trained herbal practitioners can be very helpful especially on dosage and side effects but please always keep in mind and check with other sources. A well-known popular phenomenon does not mean that he/she is a good doctor or pharmacist and some doctors are strictly against herbal medicines and reject everything. In any case if you use herbal medicines please do not hide it from your doctor as some phytochemicals may change your blood or urine results dramatically.
Technically orange juice or broccoli soups are herbal extracts. But there are some methods, which are used, in pharmaceutical formulas like teas, decoctions, juices, smoothies, tinctures, syrups, capsules, tablets, fixed oils, freeze-dried extracts, powders, ointments, creams and essential oils some of which can be, also use at home to prepare an herbal remedy.
Another common method is to make an herbal vinegar or acetract, simply pack the herbs tightly into a jar and add enough vinegar to fully submerge them. After 2-4 weeks, the acetrat will be ready. Strain the liquid and store it in a dark place. It will keep at room temperature for 1 to 2 years. Not only does vinegar have its own beneficial effects it is also an amazing solvent for making herbal remedies. To soften the flavour of an acetract, make an oxymel by adding honey to the finished acetract. Oxymel or miel is very delicious and mostly kid-friendly.