Medicine for the 21st Century


| March/April 1999


'The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the maintenance of the human frame, in diet and in the prevention of disease.'-Thomas Edison

Natural Medicine Section:

Medicine for the 21st Century

Natural Remedies

Botanicals and Nutraceuticals: What's Next?


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Edison could not have been more correct with his prediction about the doctor of the future, but he neglected to envision one key trend that is evident as we approach the millennium. People are no longer looking solely to their doctor as the source of their health information and health care. For many reasons, not the least of which is consumer distrust of the managed care system, people are increasingly beginning to educate themselves on how to maintain their health and are looking first to friends, family, books and the Internet for their answers.

Self-Managed Care: A New Approach to Health and Wellness
Today, individuals are looking to manage their own health through wellness-oriented lifestyles, enlightened self-care, and when necessary, the use of safe and cost effective natural therapies, including herbs and dietarysupplements. The demanding baby-boomer population, many of whom are nowmanaging their own health as well as that of their children and aging parents, are opting for less-invasive, natural approaches to health as their primary strategy, tending to minimize their utilization of the managed care system. Savvy health consumers want integrative health care-a full range of treatment options from both conventional and alternative/complementary health care. The key word is choice.


Self-managed care, a term that captures the spirit of this emerging culture, is highly appealing as a new direction for maintaining your own and your family's health. Emphasizing a state of health and well-being, consumer empowerment, and increased utilization of integrative health care services, self-managed care has it foundations in three separate but philosophically-attuned health-related movements-the wellness, self-care and alternative medicine movements-each of which has taken root in America over the past 20-30 years. These parallel themes of self-managed care are now recognized as essential elements of an enlightened approach to health care as we approach the 21st century. This perspective is well suited to Americans as we have a deeply ingrained tradition of self-reliance dating back to Thoreau at Walden Pond and our Founding Fathers.


One of the rapidly emerging forms of self-care and wellness promotion is the use of dietary supplements, herbs and homeopathic remedies as well as an increased focus on organic foods and a whole foods diet. These natural products are also at the heart of much of the practice of alternative/complementary medicine including Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, and both herbal and nutritional medicine. Natural products are also entering mainstream medical practice, as dietary supplements and herbs are being increasingly utilized by health professionals who can no longer ignore the overwhelming consumer demand or the mounting research evidence from around the world. This demand is accelerating the process of integration.


Today nearly 40% of Americans utilize alternative medicine services, according to a recent survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The survey showed that visits to alternative practitioners were up 50% (689 million), nearly twice that of visits to primary care MDs (386 million), and over $20 billion was spent on these visits.


This trend is clearly reflected in the natural products industry, which has now reached $20 billion in annual sales, according to Nutrition Business Journal, and is in a state of accelerated growth. Information on dietary supplements, herbs, homeopathic remedies, whole foods nutrition and alternative/complementary medicine, once difficult to access, is now readily accessible through mass media as well as the Internet, which provides a comprehensive, yet not always reliable resource for consumer and professional level information and education.





SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
Well-Researched, Time Tested Herbs

ECHINACEA
Echinacea purpurea
Widely used by Native Americans and the most popular herb in America prior to the advent of antibiotics, Echinacea is commonly used to prevent and treat colds and flus. Studies have demonstrated that the tincture of the root of Echinacea purpurea helps to decrease the symptoms and duration of flu-like infections. More research is needed on the best form and dosage of this herb.

FEVERFEW
Tanacetum parthenium
Feverfew has been used for over 2,000 years as a treatment for headaches and fever. The active ingredient in feverfew which seems to be responsible for its antimigraine effect is parthenolide. Two of three studies have shown benefits for migraine patients. One study showed a 70% reduction in the frequency and severity of migraines. In Canada, feverfew has recently been approved as an over-the-counter medication to prevent migraines. This herb should be avoided during pregnancy.

GINGKO
Ginkgo biloba
Used since the 15th century in China, the leaves of the Ginkgo tree, the oldest living tree on earth (first appearing about 200 million years ago), contain several compounds called ginkgolides that have unique therapeutic properties. Ginkgo's best known property is its ability to increase circulation to the brain and the extremities. There have been over 500 studies on Gingko since the 1950s, and a standardized ginkgo extract has been developed in Germany to treat cerebral dysfunction with the accompanying symptoms of memory loss, as well as dizziness, tinnitus, headaches, and male impotence. Studies using ginkgo with Alzheimers patients have shown promising results.

MILK THISTLE
Silybum marianum
Milk thistle has generated a great deal of excitement due to its effect on liver disorders for which conventional medicine is generally ineffective. In fact, this herb has been used for liver disorders for over 2,000 years ago dating back to ancient Greece. Over 300 studies on the effectiveness of silymarin, the main chemical component of milk thistle seeds on the treatment of liver disease, show it acts to protect the liver from toxins and stimulates the production of new liver cells. It is approved in Germany for use as a supportive therapy in the treatment of chronic inflammatory liver disorders such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

SAW PALMETT0
Serenoa repens
The berries from the saw palmetto plant, a small shrub native to the southeastern U.S., has become a well-known herb to men in their 40s and 50s. Clinical trials have shown that saw palmetto is effective in reducing symptoms associated with BPH (enlarged prostate) including the urge to urinate frequently in the night. Studies have demonstrated nearly a 50% increase in the rate of urinary flow in men as well as over 40% reduction in frequency of nightly urination.

ST. JOHN'S WORT
Hypericum perforatum
St. John's Wort, the widely popular anti-depressant herb, has a 2,400 year history of safe and effective use dating back to Hippocrates, the Father of Western medicine. Today in Germany more than 50% of depression, anxiety and sleep disorders are treated with St. John's Wort. Convincing research has demonstrated that St. John's Wort is an effective remedy for mild to moderate depression. The therapeutic effectiveness has been shown to be often similar tothat of SSRI anti-depres sant drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. St. John's wort, however, has far fewer side effects and is available over-the-counter for a fraction of the cost of prescription anti-depressants.

VALERIAN ROOT
Valeriana officinalis
With a long history of use in European traditional medicine, valerian root exerts a mild sedative effect on the central nervous system and is most helpful for insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety. In Germany, valerian root is approved as an over-the-counter medicine for 'states of excitation' and insomnia due to nervousness. A scientific team representing the European community has reviewed the research on valerian and concluded that it is a safe nighttime sleep aid. These scientists also found that there are no major adverse reactions associated with its use, and unlike barbiturates and other conventional drugs used for insomnia, valerian does not have an adverse reaction with alcohol, and is not addictive like some conventional benzodiazepine medications.
-James Strohecker