Alternative Medicine

Folklore or Merit?

I am often asked about the merit of herbal medicine in curing or healing animals with various illnesses. The largest criticism of herbal medicine is the lack of controlled scientific trials proving that a certain herb actually cures or assists in healing. The mode of action of herbs, hence usage to treat various diseases, is often based on hundreds to thousands of years of folklore.

The lack of scientific trials is basically due to the cost of conducting field trials. A company will not spend thousands of dollars to prove a particular herb helps in healing when there is no financial benefit to them. A herb is a natural product and therefore cannot have a patent placed on it. A patent protects the company that developed the product to be the only one to sell it for a set number of years so they may be able to recoup its investment.

Since around 70% of drugs are originally derived from plants and other natural products, for example penicillin was extracted from mould, companies identify the active ingredient, extract it and produce it synthetically, for which a patent can then be applied and prevent anyone else manufacturing and selling it. But at the end of the day, the product still was originally derived from a natural product.

So back to the initial question, do herbs work? Yes but one must proceed with caution. It is important to obtain information and advice from qualified professionals. I use herbs routinely in my practice and have marvelled how they assist in improving the animal’s condition. This is particularly true in chronic conditions, for example arthritis. Most chronic conditions are not curable, but the goal is to improve comfort and decrease pain. In my opinion, herbal treatments assist in achieving this goal.

In the end, it is a personal choice.