The world is changing; medical treatments that were considered sheer quackery a few years ago are now being given serious consideration by government researchers. In the developing world, herbal medicine has attained new prestige, thanks mainly to the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the developed world, the public, by the tens of millions, is demanding an integration of conventional Western medicine and the once-scorned approaches of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Cancer is one of the diseases whose treatment is being re-evaluated around the world. There is widespread dissatisfaction with surgery, radiotherapy, and especially chemotherapy. Even oncologists (cancer specialists) are being caught up in that trend.
You will notice that the latest cancer “breakthroughs” mainly involve innovative and less toxic agents, such as hormonal drugs (tamoxifen), angiogenesis inhibitors (Angiostatin and Endostatin), and monoclonal antibodies (Herceptin).
More and more, doctors (prodded by outspoken and well-informed patients) are realizing that they need to do more than just kill cells. They must also foster wellness, by supporting the body’s defense mechanisms and utilizing the biochemical peculiarities of the tumor against itself.
One possible “new” avenue of treatment is herbal medicine, with “new” in quotes because, as you shall see, it is one of the oldest ways of treating illness.
“New” medicine is really old medicine
First of all, what do we mean by herbs and herbal medicine? We all have a commonsensical definition of herbs, which is basically “anything that grows and is useful.” More technically, the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines an herb as (a) any non-woody seed-bearing plant which dies down to the ground after flowering, or (b) any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, scent, etc.
The “World Health Organization” (WHO), which has done much to promote the use of herbs, defines “herbal medicines” as “finished, labeled medicinal products that contain as active ingredients aerial or underground parts of plants, or other plant material, or combinations thereof, whether in the crude state or as plant preparations.”
Herbal medicines may also contain not just excipients (such as binders that help in the preparation of pills and capsules) but also, by tradition, natural organic or inorganic active ingredients, which are not of plant origin.
Herbal medicine is regarded, in the United States at least, as an offshoot of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Much of the resurgence of herbs in America, England, Canada, and Australia has to do with the acceptance of cultural pluralism in those countries.
Immigrant culture and alternative medicine
In many other countries, including the European Continent, the use of herbal medicine never entirely died out, and in some instances has been officially sanctioned and fostered. At the very least, there has been greater tolerance. It is mainly in the English-speaking countries, especially the USA that such treatments were for a long time stigmatized as “health fraud and quackery.”
One reason for the profound change in climate has been the activities of the World Health Organization, and its many affiliated agencies and congresses. The prestige of the WHO and the United Nations has done much to dissolve the atmosphere of hostility that surrounded traditional medicines.
Meanwhile, in the developed countries, we have seen a “preference of many consumers for products of natural origin.”
This trend is reinforced by the desire of many immigrants to incorporate the traditional remedies of their former homes into the context of Western scientific medicine. A significant and related development has been the entry of many excellent scientists, especially Asians, into the research establishment.
Researched by: Proficient Muteguya Goodrich