Herbal medicine good but doc’s prescription still needed, say physicians

By , on June 22, 2014

Herbal medicine. ShutterStock image
Herbal medicine. ShutterStock image

COTABATO CITY -– Government and private doctors here said there is nothing wrong with herbal medicine being promoted by herbalists in many parts of the country.

Some even recommend its use, especially among the indigents and those living in communities away from doctors or medical practitioners due to armed conflict which is common in Muslim Mindanao region.

But Dr. Tahir Sulaik, provincial health chief of Maguindanao province, warned of abuse of herbal medicines by its producers, manufacturers and distributors.

”Herbal medicine is good and cheap. While some were proven scientifically, many of them are in the market pursuing a heal-all type of medicine,” Sulaik told the Philippine News Agency.

”Traditionally, our elders have no medicine and they had no physicians. They simply used herbal medicine for a particular illness and believed in miracles,” he noted.

There are no published data on cases of mortality due to the use, or misuse, of herbal medicines but many locals in far-flung Philippine communities believe in the effectiveness of herbal medicine.

Even the Department of Health (DOH) has been promoting “sambong,” a popular herbal medicine for cough and kidney illnesses.

But Dr. Sulaik, already serving the health department for the past 30 years, says that seeing a doctor before taking herbal medicine is still the best practice for locals.

He noted that some herbalists or “quack doctors” lack the necessary knowledge on the hygienic preparation of herbal medicines.

”There goes the danger. If herbal medicines are not well prepared or unhealthy preparations using traditional equipment like containers, spoons, among others, bottles which are not sterilized could pose serious dangers to a sick person,” Sulaik warned.

Private medical practitioner Dr. Jun Rabago, former governor for Mindanao of the Philippine Medical Society, believed in traditional medicine, specially the so called Chinese medicine.

But he too warned of possible abuse of the use or herbal medication among people who have serious diseases.

”People should not be easily swayed with beautiful words from herbal products, food supplements which are sometimes misconstrued as cure all pill,” he once said.

”The best thing to do is consult your physician before taking any herbal medication because doctors know how to balance your medication,” he told reporters recently.

Rabago also warned of testimonials among those who claimed to have benefited from herbal medicine.

He said these stories are not true all the time. The patient may have been treated already and took herbal medicine to which he or she gave credit.

”See your doctor, that is the safest and most effective way to get right medication,” he said.

For her part, Dr. Eva Rabaya, chief of North Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office said her office is promoting herbal medicine provided these bear the approval of the Department of Health.

Rabaya said there are herbal medicines that do not possess DOH and Bureau of Food and Drugs approval and these must not be used by any patient.

Care should always be the priority and that only herbs with DOH-BFAD approval can be used, Rabaya stressed.