Medika Life Position Statement
Medika has recently launched an apothecary section, in which we intend to examine herbs and plants and the medicinal properties associated with these plants. We believe this natural reservoir offers a largely untapped source of treatment options for a host of medical conditions. The value of many of these natural compounds is only now beginning to enjoy serious attention.
I was shocked when a medical colleague questioned the inclusion of these articles in our publication, suggesting they are baseless and pseudoscience. The exact term used was “wooo”. Sadly, this opinion is shared by many colleagues and the alternative health sector is largely to blame for this perception. It has led to a widening chasm between modern medicine and traditional medicine, which is now seen as the home of modern-day witches, spiritualists, and charlatans.
Although this description of the vocal elements of alternate health is mostly accurate, it serves to detract from the real and tangible benefits these plants and herbs can offer and how oral health traditions often “know better”. We ignore this traditional knowledge at a cost to the patient and by diminishing traditional cures and remedies as “nonsense, we close our minds to a whole avenue of alternate care that is, allow me to remind you, based on centuries of evidence.
Time is the ultimate clinical challenge and remedies, however obscure, that have survived this test, deserve our full attention and further investigation. That is the driving focus behind our Apothecary series, highlighting potentially helpful plants and herbs that have fallen by wayside, simply because of poor brand management.
There are new treatments waiting to be discovered by science and far from being “wooo”, this is, in fact, an exciting and very real avenue of exploration for scientists and the pharma industry.
One of the best examples of just how this knowledge can benefit medicine can be found in the bark of the humble willow tree. Willow bark has been used as a traditional medicine for more than 3500 years. Unknown to the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians who made use of it, the active agent within willow bark was salicin, which would later form the basis of the discovery of aspirin.
This one tree provided us one of the most widely used medicines in modern day health. According to Dr. Karol Watson, assistant professor of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles,
Aspirin is one of those things that, long before there were ever clinical trials or any kind of scientific knowledge, people figured out, ‘Hey, I feel better when I take this substance’.
The drug has been making headlines recently because a study in The Lancet found that a daily aspirin appeared to lower the risk of cancer by at least 20% during a 20-year period. That’s based on data from more than 25,000 patients and builds on earlier findings that aspirin may lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
The research has limitations and is not definitive proof, but it does add another benefit to an ancient remedy that has been called a miracle drug. How ancient? Very. The ancient Egyptians used willow bark as a remedy for aches and pains and Hippocrates, the Greek physician who lived from about 460 to 377 B.C., wrote that willow leaves and bark relieved pain and fevers. Wooo that led us to identify salicylic acid and the modern-day wonder drug, Aspirin.
To be clear, none of these plants and herbs ascribe their healing properties to spiritual forces or faeries. They contain compounds, many of which are still not fully understood or adequately researched, that have been gifted to us by nature. Our desire to isolate ourselves from our biological ancestry, to somehow feel we are above nature and the processes that created us, is both mystifying and flawed.
Where our ancestors saw the work or hand of the spiritual guides and gods at play, we now see science. Science is however not a law unto itself and is subject to the forces and wonders of the natural world. It is these forces that led us to science and in which science is based. No matter how far we advance the field, this will remain a fundamental and inescapable truth. It would be deeply saddening to see the profession turn its back on its raison d’etre.
Towards Progress and the Future
We believe that there are still untold medical riches waiting to be discovered, hundreds of “willow trees” with their own magical, unexplored and undiscovered natural compounds, offering relief and possibly even cures to some of our most serious ailments.
Medika will continue to publish and highlight plants and herbs that we feel deserve a closer look, where discovering the mechanism of action and actual compounds these plants contain, could lead to new cutting edge treatments.
At the same time, we will continue to mercilessly pursue the scam artists, quacks, and charlatans that permeate both medicine and the alternate health sector. Individuals who ascribe miraculous, unfounded, and unproven properties and health claims to these plants and herbs. There is a route to realigning modern and traditional medicine and it lies in truth and transparency. Not wooo.