Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten
australiaphen375.com

Do Herbs Work?

A question from one of our avid readers.

Q: My parents never quite grew out of their hippie lifestyle when they were students. At 26 I’m the eldest of four children and we’ve all been brought up on organic food and natural medicines instead of the burgers, chips and antibiotics that we envied our friends for.

As an adult I much prefer healthy eating and herbal remedies but I keep reading reports saying that they are either dangerous or they don’t work. Please can you give me some facts?

A: There’s no doubt that there are dangerous herbs. You wouldn’t want to take hemlock or deadly nightshade. In terms of safety most of the normal tried and tested plants are infinitely safer than even an aspirin or anti-inflammatory. Where there are problems it’s mostly a question of adjusting the doses, as in the case of St John’s Wort and warfarin.

Herbalists and naturopathic practitioners like me have used and believed in herbs for centuries but now there is an ever growing body of serious scientific evidence. At the end of last year two large studies showed the value and safety of herbs that I’ve written about in Woman over the years.

A clinical trial in six different outpatient clinics by a group of Russian and German university researchers showed that the South African Geranium, Pelargonium sidoides, is an effective alternative to antibiotics for the treatment of bronchitis. Compared with a placebo (dummy pill), more than two thirds of the patients taking the herb were much better within four days.

This is better than expected with antibiotics and avoids the risk of resistant bugs. Available as Kaloba, the only MHRA registered herbal medicine containing Pelargonium sidoides from Boots, Health Stores and online: www.kaloba.co.uk

Three months earlier a Swiss study of 330 patients found that treating hay fever with extracts of the herb Butterbur was as effective as using regular antihistamines but with no symptoms or drowsiness. Both these herbs are widely available in health stores and pharmacies and proven to be safe as well as effective.

 

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