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View Diary: The destructive consequences of junk science (graphic images) (65 comments)

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  •  Just a minute... (0+ / 0-)

    Not really and I say this as someone that is trained in herbalism. No one knows because there hasn't been enough research.

    I have a doctoral degree in Chinese medicine. You're right that we don't know of every possible reaction. Nor are all the possible reactions known about inter-drug (drug/drug) reactions between the stew of drugs that doctors prescribe on a daily basis. And there are food/drug, mineral/drug, vitamin/drug reactions that are not entirely understood, and which doctors often blithely ignore completely. I know this based on reports from my patients (some of whom are MD's). What we do know is that for most herbs, the reactions are nonexistent or very minor, and generally result in slight increases or decreases in the drugs potency. Taking the herbs two hours apart from the drugs settles the issue in most cases. We are quite attentive to explaining this to patients. Now, if only we could get the doctors to monitor their own patients drug/drug interactions more seems it's the pharmacists who constantly catch errors in doctors careless prescriptions.

    Most herbalists also don't extensively study pharmacology and the physiological mechanisms of their own products are poorly understood--so understanding the interactions is not really possible yet. We do know some certainly, but there is still vast numbers we don't.

    True, they don't extensively study western pharmacology, although in Chinese med we do take classes in the subject, including classes in herb/drug interactions. How many Western docs have taken specific classes in herb/drug interactions, much less in herbs? Few. Also, in Chinese med, we have accumulated extensive knowledge over the millenia about side effects of herbs through extensive clinical observation. But side effects of western drugs are often not known, either, and western docs often get quite defensive of their tools of the trade, despite some of the horrific results that are discovered after drugs are allowed on the market.

    One of the problem for physicians is that many of their patients don't report they are taking herbs (either they don't think it matters or they believe there will be judgment). This makes understanding of interactions that much more difficult to figure out.

    In my experience, western physicians don't take the time to look up interactions, even when they're told about herb use. Their basic approach is to scare the patient away from therapies which are often have great efficacy. That's why patients don't inform them of herb use. They have learned that they will be ridiculed by someone who has little experience, knowledge or training in therapies outside of drug interventions.

    The understanding of biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology gives many physicians a leg up on this. Many medical schools also have a course on phytopharmacology so their understanding of plant-based medicine may not be as lacking as you think.

    Oh, that's nonsense for the most part. I have worked with doctors, and I have had many patients routinely report back to me their doctor's comments. I know very well what their training is, and it doesn't include much in nutrition or herbal therapy, if any. I've taken the time to look up medical school curricula, and I have not seen the classes you refer to. Doctors are often shockingly ignorant in their comments. They spend their time in med school studying to pass other exams, and herbs are not high on the young medical student's priorities. I could write a three page essay about this, but in short, frankly, doctors are usually profoundly ignorant about herbal therapy.

    I'm not saying this is always the case but many herbalists also just look things up in books and prescribe using older methods that are not based on a modern scientific understanding.

    In Chinese med, which is my field, we keep abreast of modern findings, and have many, many, thousands of hours of training in our field. What you claim about "herbalists" may in fact be true of poorly trained individuals, most of whom I would not define as herbalists. But the same can be said of western physicians and chiropractors who delve into acupuncture with only two weeks of training, thus making a mockery of a science that takes years of training to properly implement.

    •  You both have good points. (1+ / 0-)
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      What we need is a holistic approach in which herbalist medicine and Chinese medicine and Western medicine are not mutually exclusive. And on top of that, we need transparency so that we can educate the public about dangerous treatments that are not safe for people. That is why I was so vehemently opposed to McCarthy getting the kind of platform she did -- here is someone who by her own admission has no scientific training, and yet is trying to scare people off of vaccines. And it works both ways -- we need laws requiring drug companies to disclose the results of their trials as well as the nature of their research. That way, we can educate the public about treatments that are effective and warn the public about approaches/treatments that are not.

      •  Yes (3+ / 0-)

        What we need is a holistic approach in which herbalist medicine and Chinese medicine and Western medicine are not mutually exclusive.

        That approach is, in fact, the way we are taught in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in the Chinese medical system (in China) integrative medicine has been used since 1950. Integrative medicine is nothing new to the Chinese. By the way, I interned in a western hospital as part of my internship as an acupuncturist. Most people are not very aware that some of the "alternative" medical practices are becoming mainstream. The MDs I worked with were completely fine with my presence in their wards.

        The science of medicine is still developing. We must be careful of big brotherism in which some committee of industry trained professionals (google pharmaceutical industry funding of med schools) tells us what we can or can't do with our bodies. I see the issue as similar to abortion rights. In my view, no one has the right to tell me what I can do with my own body. That once was a basic right that we're rapidly losing.

    •  well (0+ / 0-)

      How many Western docs have taken specific classes in herb/drug interactions, much less in herbs?

      It is limited but increasing. I, for one, give a lecture to medical students and residents on alternative therapies. But it's a lot of ground to cover in an hour, so I wind up giving them a lot of references. It's then up to them to look it up.

      What I think a lot of people don't realize is that there are other paradigms for medical care, which you clearly know as a traditional chinese practitioner. In TCM, as well as in Ayurveda, and other alternative systems, the process of learning physiology is different, the diagnostic process is different, etc. etc. I might send you ten patients with migrains who, under your system, may come up with ten different diagnoses, and similarly I would probably make different diagnoses for patients of yours with the same diagnoses under your system.

      It's our western hubris that makes us think our system is "better." There are advantages to each system. For example, allopathic medicine does little to help with inflammation, pain and dysfunction that can't be treated with meds or surgery. But I've had lots of good outcomes for patients when I've sent them to "alternative" practitioners.

      Like many things, we would all do better if we learned more about each other, and if our minds were open to thinking differently. That's often a tall order, however.

      Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without - W S Coffin

      by stitchmd on Mon May 11, 2009 at 07:59:00 AM PDT

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