The Winner is: Modern Medicine or Traditional?
For physicians, especially those who practice in Asian and African countries there is a common question from patients: What’s your opinion about traditional treatment? Do you think it is better because of fewer side effects?
As a medical doctor what would be your answer?
Let’s take a look at a few cases:
A 64 year-old woman was brought to the Emergency room. She had suddenly lost her consciousness. Plantar reflex was Asymmetric; Blood pressure was 200/120. Her son underlined the history of hypertension (HTN), in the morning her BP had been 210/120 but she refused to see a doctor. She strongly believed her BP would be reduced by drinking Lemon juice and eating Yoghurt with dill so she had been consuming these since morning. Her CT-Scan confirmed the diagnosis of Haemorrhagic CVA due to HTN crisis.
A 48 year–old man was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. In his Transrectal ultrasonography (TRUS) there was unilateral tumor without any extension to the other organs. The Urologist recommended surgery as a certain treatment but the patient refused. He decided on Vegan diet and Herbal drugs as a treatment, besides avoiding any chemical medication along with tumor follow up visits by TRUS every 3 months. Astonishingly his tumor size started to reduce since the first month he changed into a strict vegan. Now after 4 years he is healthy, married and his tumor diameter has not changed over the last year.
Various ideas prevail in society regarding herbal and alternative medicine. Those who believe in medical science have a general view that herbal drugs and alternative medicine is unscientific, primitive, unproven, ineffective and hence possibly dangerous. Scientific study of herbal and alternative medicine is new. For example: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has only been operational; since 1992 compared to FDA which was founded over 100 years ago.
The supporters of alternative/herbal medicine however argue that the first therapeutic activities date about 11th-14th centuries BC in China. Also in Iran, the earliest records of ancient medicine have been seen in Zend – Avesta. In this book, 3 kinds of medicine were distinguished: surgery, herbal and divine words. At this time over 100 million drugs prescribed every year came from plants, about 70-80% of hormones used in Medicine today are derived completely from plants so it’s not right to label drugs as modern when they are in fact derived from Herbs! For example: Quinine that is efficient in Malaria fever comes from the Peruvian Bark or Aspirin comes from willow Bark.
Some medical doctors might argue that a Herbalist or a health counselor never would be able to treat serious conditions like Trauma, Myocardial Infarction, HTN crisis and so on, because alternative treatment is naturally inappropriate for acute conditions. Moreover, self – dosing is another disadvantage of Herbal drugs, there is a real risk of overdose and poison risks are associated with wild herbs. Those who try to identify and pick wild herbs run a major risk of poisoning themselves if they don’t correctly identify or use the wrong part of plant.
Alternative medicine affiliates respond that their methods tend to be more effective with chronic conditions that don’t respond well to modern treatments. Also, the side effects of Herbal drugs, according to them, do not cause death. For example: you can take as much Peruvian Bark tea as you want with no side effects but by taking a little too much quinine , you will grow deaf and in longer dose you will die. The greatest benefit with herbal medicine, they argue, is the non-existence of side effects and the long lasting benefits. Herbalists know toxic plants and stay away from them.
Other advocates of Alternative medicine also argue that their methods cost much less than modern ones and most herbal medications and traditional treatments are well tolerated by the patients. Furthermore, traditional and herbal treatments have widespread availability in some remote parts of the world. Alternative treatments and herbs may be the only treatment available to a lot of people and they can be consumed without the any kind of prescription.
Nevertheless, medical doctors argue that it might cost less but the government does not regulate the industry of alternative medicine well. So there is a weak chance of good quality control. Herbal medicines are taken without prescription and the healer could be any one (not only a recognized physician), which means that in some cases, individual might be undergoing error process and it could be dangerous.
The supporters of modern scientific medicine also contend that with alternative treatments the curing period is usually longer so immense patience is required while undergoing treatment. On the other hand it’s possible that some patients miss the golden time of their effective treatment. For example: a patient who is diagnosed with cancer in primary stage and can be cured by surgery, spends 8 months in non-effective traditional treatments. However now it’s too late, the cancer has spread out and surgery would not work for him. Moreover his prognosis has significantly decreased compared to 8 months ago.
Taking a brief look at the differences between Modern and Traditional treatments:
- In modern medicine, healing comes from scientific and acceptable treatments while in alternative methods, healing comes from ancient and not extensively tested treatments.
- A modern medical doctor is a recognized physician and drugs are available only with prescription while in alternative medicine, healer could be a health counsellor or anyone else and medicine is available everywhere.
- Modern medicine sometimes has more severe side effects while less severe side effects occur with herbs, etc.
- Sometimes alternative medicine might be cheaper than modern treatments.
- Scientific medicine works for both acute and chronic diseases.
Now what is your opinion? Traditional or Modern or maybe both of them together?
- Holistic Medicine vs. Modern Medicine. Shelley. S PHD June 2007
- traditional Healing and Western Medicine: Segregation or Integration? Kangwa .C November 18.2010
- Herbs vs. Modern medicine Christopher .J PHD 2011
- A study on the hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic effects of an ayurvedic drug Rajanyamalakadi in diabetic patients. Faizal P, Suresh S, Satheesh Kumar R, Augusti KT. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2009 Jan;24(1):82-7
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