Have you noticed that there is an inherent hypocrisy in the arguments often put forward by people who oppose herbal medicine? This hypocrisy was beautifully ullustrated by the news item on research showing that the herb Tansy can be useful for treating herpes infections (http://www.wellbeing.com.au/latestnews).
The same article also carried a warning that Tansy can be toxic.
One detail the article did not mention is that in Australia Tansy can be used in herbal products but only if the Tansy oil content of the product is less than 0.8%, beyond that the product must be “registered” according to the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) and have a whole heap of restrictions placed on who can have access to it. All of this is perfectly fine according to The Glass Turnip but it highlights one of the really annoyingly ignorant fallacies in the anti-herbal argument.
On the one hand it is often claimed that herbal medicines “do nothing”. You can have that attitude if you want to (although it does fly in the face of the thousands of studies published on the medicinal effects of herbs, not to mention millennia of empirical evidence and use). What you can’t do is then say that some herbs are toxic.
If herbs do nothing then they can’t be toxic either.
Tansy is a perfect example that herbs do have effects in the human body and sometimes those effects, depending on dosage, can be harmful. “Natural” is not a synonym for “safe”, but it is also not a synonym for “ineffective”.
Herbs do have real and measurable impacts on the human body. Usually those effects are more gentle and balanced than those of synthetic or single ingredient pharmaceuticals. That is because the entire chemistry of a plant tends to balance itself and, dare we say it, there is an inherent wisdom in nature. The Glass Turnip is only too aware how such phrases will trigger apoplexy in this who worship at the altar of science, but it is about time that the reductionist and proof-hobbled scientific view started to embrace some wisdom.
Science and nature are not mutually exclusive. Rigorous thought and respect for transcendent truth can co-exist. It’s time we stopped arguing whether herbal medicines work or not; they work, sometimes they work so strongly that they are toxic. What it is time for is a debate about the shape of our medical future because we can’t afford the one that lies before us now.
Promotion of wellness has to be our focus and herbs can play a daily role in that. Pharamaceutical drugs have a place in our medical future, but they are not the whole story, or even the biggest part of the story. Let’s get on with wellness and stop with the fatuous arguments that keep us attached to disease.