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Alternative Medicine: Science or Sorcery
Alternative Medicine • Includes therapies such as: Acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbs, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, aromatherapy, neuropathy, massage, reflexology, iridology, magnetic therapy • Our discussion will be limited to herbal remedies and aromatherapy
Ginkgo Biloba • Living fossil – belongs to a group of gymnosperms that were abundant during the Mesozoic Era (age of dinosaurs) • Staple of Chinese herbal medicine for over 4000 yrs • Extracts from leaves used as an herbal remedy used worldwide today • Used to improve circulation by inhibiting clotting – especially useful in the brain • Shown success in improving memory – especially for the elderly • Also used to treat asthma and bronchitis
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) • Herbaceous perennial with showy yellow flowers • Long history of use in Europe as an herbal remedy for many conditions – traditionally used as a tea • Today being used primarily as an anti-depressant - called “herbal Prozac” • Prescribed in Europe for over 15 yrs • Above ground parts harvest just before or during flowering and extracts prepared
Kava-Kava (Piper methysticum) • Small shrub native to islands in the South Pacific • Roots (actually the rhizome) used to prepare a ritual beverage among the islanders in South Pacific • Used for its relaxing qualities, relieving anxiety and inducing sleep
Ephedrine (Ephedra spp.) Small shrub common in arid and desert areas - widely distributed in these habitats Reduced scale-like lvs Stem green and photosynthetic Ephedra sinica well known as source of drug ephedrine
Medicinal Use of Ephedra • Long history of use as a medicinal plant especially as a decongestant for asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions • In China, Ephedra sinica – called Ma Huang has been used for thousands of years • Also well known as a stimulant
Alkaloids in Ephedra • Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine • Ephedrine used in prescription drugs since the 1920s • Also used in OTC drugs • Very effective decongestants – relax bronchial muscles • Also CNS stimulant that increases heart rate and blood pressure and blood flow to brain – stimulating properties of pseudoephedrine not as great and preferred
Abuse of Ephedrine • Stimulating effects of ephedrine similar to to amphetamines • This had led to street abuse of Ephedra products • Described as “herbal ecstasy” • Serious side effects can occur – irregular heart beats, dizziness, heart attacks, strokes, seizures • Hundreds have suffered serious effects • Several states have passed laws regulating the sale – as a controlled substance • FDA has proposed limits on amounts in herbals • Ephedrine can also be chemically converted into methamphetamine or "crank“
Control of Herbal Remedies • There is no control • FDA does not control • No testing • No quality control • No dosage control • Much of the concern about herbal drugs is this lack of regulation!
Aromatherapy • Use of essential oils from plants to trigger physiological responses and healing • Essential oils can be absorbed through nose, lungs, and skin • Essential oils are often antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory • They are believed to effect immune system, endocrine system, and general well being