Balancing the Chemistry of America: Herbal Remedies vs. Pharmaceutical Medications
By M. Haas | 11 November 2016
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause & prevention of disease.” Thomas Edison (2013, “Antipharmaceutical Edison,” 18 x 24 canvas, by M.I. Schellhaas)
We live during a time where the pharmaceutical industry has skyrocketed in laboratory production and physician prescription of medicines of all categories for myriads of illnesses and syndromes. It is intriguing to discover, though, modern medicine has developed the incredible magnitude of synthetic pharmaceuticals it has today from originally studying and prescribing plants.
From 2600 BCE to about the 19th century, physicians alleviated pain and symptoms of disease, disorders, and wounds with herbal apothecaries. Apothecary is defined as a “term for a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients,” where materia medica is a “Latin medical term for the body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing.” In modern times, materia medica has been replaced by the term ‘pharmacology,’ and apothecary replaced by the term ‘pharmacist.’  Indigenous shamans of tribes around the world also healed illness (and still do to this day) via herbal methods. So what happened to the collective of modern society continuing to utilize the wonderful, natural benefits of herbal remedies?
They still exist, but genuine curiosity must lead you out of the mainstream world of modern medicine to discover them.
There are many classes of pharmaceutical drugs that are specifically man-made emulations of already naturally occurring herbal alkaloids. An example of this is the psychiatric class of drugs known as MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) that are found to be effective in treating depression, Parkinson’s disease, panic disorder, anxiety and other neuropsychological conditions . Before synthetic pharmaceutical MAOI’s existed, naturally occurring MAOI’s were found and utilized in a variety of plants, particularly by indigenous shamans. A few MAOI containing plants are Syrian rue, Mimosa hostilis, Banisteriopsis caapi, Passionflower, and Yohimbe . Synthetic laboratory manufactured MAOI’s, that selectively mimic naturally occurring MAOI’s, include Moclobemide, Deprenyl (also known as Selegiline and Emsam), Phenelzine (Nardil), and Tranylcypromine (Parnate) .
Pharmaceutical drugs, in general, often come with heaps of uncomfortable to even medically concerning side effects, in which death is one of them. As of 2013, according to DrugWarFacts’ table of Annual Causes of Death in the United States, all drug-induced deaths comprise 46,471 people, over 10,000 more than deaths related to motor vehicle accidents (35,369). In 2010, 22,134 deaths were pharmaceutical related, not including pharmaceutical opioid deaths .
This is not to say prescription drugs in themselves are harmful. Some pharmaceuticals, like the antibiotic Penicillin, have changed lives for the better. Penicillin is what made it possible for grandparents to remain alive to give birth to parents who gave birth to the generation of today.
Proclinical Life Sciences blog states, “It has been calculated that the antibiotic (Penicillin) has saved over 80 million lives and without its discovery and implementation, 75% of people today would not be alive because their ancestors would have succumbed to infection… However, inappropriate use of the drug has meant that the world is now facing antibiotic resistance, and bacteria are evolving to fight off the drug’s effects. ”
What is harmful about pharmaceuticals is the vast extent they are prescribed. If greed was taken out of the medical picture, over-prescription and improper use of medications and their implications on health wouldn’t be an issue. We must balance collective chemistry on individual levels by replacing non-imperative pharmaceutical drugs with healthy diet, exercise, and herbs.
In terms of alleviating illness, herbal options should not be ruled out nor avoided. In general, the greedy business of the modern medical industry puts more emphasis on pharmaceuticals than herbal correlates.
In the article ‘Herbal and Synthetic Drugs: A Comparison,’ pharmacist Joel Albers illumines “Herbs are much less expensive than their human-made counterparts. The average prescription drug price is about $50 for a month’s supply. Herbals cost between $10 and $20 per month supply. Total sales of herbs in the U.S. in 2000 was $16 billion compared with $130 billion for outpatient prescription drugs. In the future, the use of herbs and synthetic drugs in complementary fashion can reduce toxicities and maximize therapeutic outcomes. Not just the therapies, but the whole system itself will need to operate in a complementary, ethical and inclusive way for the public to receive the most cost-effective and productive healing options. ”
In Dr. Trevor Erikson’s article ‘3 reasons why herbal medicines are superior to synthetic drugs,’ he explains, “…herbal medicines are a composition of a multitude of different constituents, all arranged in harmonious ways, all contributing to a different duty and, most importantly, doing this all at the same time. Most synthetic drugs are designed from the reductionist point of view where-by one chemical is to influence one receptor in the human body. But guess what? The human body does not work via a one to one type of relationship; it works via thousands upon thousands of mini relationships going on all at once. Herbal medicines are just more in line with how our body is designed. ”
As of today, over half of the U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the use and prescription of medicinal cannabis. We are slowly witnessing the revival of the herbal apothecary, again– only, in this century, they are called ‘medical marijuana dispensary agents.’
Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, is the primary herbal remedy replacing the prescription of multiple pharmaceutical-grade medications. The active components in cannabis, called cannabinoids, provide patients symptomatic relief for a number of conditions. These include Cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Huntington’s Disease, PTSD, Intractable seizures, Autism, Glaucoma, and many more .
Referring back to the DrugWarFacts’ table of Annual Causes of Death in the United States, Cannabis (Marijuana) is recorded at 0 (zero) deaths, annually .
Medical cannabis dispensaries provide an array of THC and CBD tinctures, oils, capsules, pills, sprays, balms, edibles, and sublingual strips containing mixes of other beneficial illness-alleviating herbs. Willow bark, turmeric, vervain, wood betony, kava kava, theanine, and hops are just some of the other natural remedies medical cannabis patients may be recommended alongside cannabis relief.
By independently investigating and inquiring if there is an herbal equivalent available for a condition, particularly ones in which prescription drugs have shown unresponsive in treating patients, we can increase the revival, knowledge, and availability of herbal history and methodology.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a physician. This knowledge is not medical advice nor is it meant to be interpreted to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Advocation of your own independent research is highly recommended.