[MOL] Why People are Using Herbal Medicines... [03059] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] Why People are Using Herbal Medicines...


There are multiple reasons patients turn to herbal therapies. Often cited is a "sense of control, a mental comfort from taking action," (9), which helps explain why many people taking herbs have diseases that are chronic or incurable, such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, or AIDS. In such situations, they often feel that conventional medicine has failed them. When patients use home remedies for acute, often self-limited conditions, such as a cold, sore throat or bee sting, it is often because professional care is not immediately available, too inconvenient, costly, or time-consuming (9,18).

In rural areas, there are additional cultural factors that encourage the use of botanicals, such as the concept of an interplay between the environment and culture, a "man-earth" relationship (12). Religious beliefs, which can be traced to the medieval doctrine of signatures, are also prominent: "The good Lord has put these yerbs here for man to make hisself with. They is a yerb, could we but find it, to cure every illness (sic)" (19). People believe that where an area gives rise to a particular disease, it will also support plants that can be used to cure it (5).

Natural plant products are perceived to be "healthier" than manufactured medicines (12). Additionally, reports of adverse effects of conventional medications are found in the lay press at a much higher rate than reports of herbal toxicities, in part because mechanisms to track adverse effects exist for conventional medicines whereas such data for self-treatment is harder to ascertain. Even physicians often dismiss herbs as harmless placebos, (10) and many consumers and physicians alike mistakenly believe that anything in a pill form has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (1).