Fringe Medicine: Part 3 - Herbs and Herbology

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It’s the Dawning of the Age of Herbology

Welcome, MedSci Readers to another exciting edition of Fringe Medicine - this time we’ll be talking about herbs and how they’ve been used to remedy disorders in the most homeopathic ways.

First, where did herbology originally come from? This is a Fringe science that’s been around for a good 5000 years - ever since the ancient Sumerians first ground up their local herbs in a desperate attempt to fix their own issues. Medicine back then was a little like casino gambling nowadays, the dice was thrown, and sometimes you’d win, sometimes you’d lose. Medical practices in the middle ages were little more than barbaric ways of justifying certain conditions. As a result, herbology became big during these periods, and continues to reign even to this day amongst people who believe that conventional chemistry isn’t good enough or isn’t healthy enough.

You’re probably sitting there wondering, “well, if it’s all just herbs, it has to be a bunch of nonesense right?” You’d be wrong to think this, because as much as it pains most people to admit, there is a certain amount of credit to the hocus that herbologists will try to sell you. Does that mean that those “herbal supplements” you keep buying are actually helping? Not really - those things are little more than a way for you to have very expensive urine.

The scientific evidence that herbology works is the same evidence that certain medicines work off of - chemistry. The facts are simple, certain chemical compounds can make us feel better, and as a result, make us get over our illnesses. Plants contain many different kinds of chemical substances to drive their sugar creation mechanisms - but where the real payload is found is in the secondary metabolites that some plants produce - these metabolites can range from acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) to insulin found in roots. As a result, herbology has often been a good springing off point for medical researchers to find compounds they could then perfect and repackage as a new drug.

But let’s talk about the OTC stuff you buy out of a GNC or some store like that. Those supplements or even “treatments” are, for the most part, just crockery made up to help you offset the costs of large corporations’ R&D programs. Herbal supplements are particularly difficult to perform the standard double-blind test, as a result, supplements, once finally passed through the FDA, are sold at a premium due to their high fabrication cost.

Also, don’t bother mixing up random weeds and herbs that you’ll find in your garden, most of that stuff will just make a very potent tea, or drink - and while you may be ingesting the compounds that are found in the plants, a large portion of those chemicals will just make their way through your system.

So, what am I trying to tell you with all this? Don’t buy those herbal supplements. Most, if not all of them, won’t do you a lick of good when you’re fighting against infection or other diseases. They are expensive and will just pass right through you. That being said, I can’t take away the placebo effect that these pills seem to give some people - in those cases, perhaps it’s worth it to continue buying the supplements if only to THINK you’re feeling better than you actually are. Remember though, the placebo effect is great if you’re not suffering from something legitimate - otherwise, you’re just fooling yourself and should seek medical assistance.


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28 November 2008