Creating Waves of Awareness
HERBS: BANE or BOON?
Dr. M. A. Usmani
Providence created life, and created the ambience that supports life. A sage has said, ‘the sun has given us eyes.’ Once, during a drilling for a tube-well, a small tortoise came out with the wet sand that the driller was drawing out. It was a very small tortoise, of the size of a medium frog. To the amazement of all of us the tortoise had no eyes. There was, in fact, no place for the eyes. It was the resident of the dark bosom of the earth, where there was no chance of any ray of light; hence no eyes. Our being, body and mind, has been formed by the mutual interaction with nature. Fragrance gave us the sense of smell, and the sounds and melodies of nature, the ears and the sense of hearing. A poet says: what is life, except a fruition of the coming together of elements in some specific arrangement; and death? is the falling into discord of the same arrangement. The corollary? ‘Near to, or in consonance with nature, near to life and near to the rhythm of health.’ Woe be to the person, and woe be to the knowledge, that desecrates Nature.
Today I read an article on MSN (dated 16th May), entitled "Heart Trouble? 18 Herbal Remedies to Avoid"
“A 2010 report by Mayo Clinic researchers listed more than 25 herbal products that can be dangerous for heart patients on medication. The following guide to herbal products that heart patients should avoid was prepared using data from the report, as well as from the National Institutes for Health and the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.”
To the astonishment and shock for the reader, the first mentioned herb is GARLIC; others being, Ginger, Green Tea, Grapefruit Juice, Alfalfa, Bilberry, Aloe Vera, Black Cohosh (Actea Racemosa), Hawthorn (Craetegus), etc.
Shock came when we saw culinary herbs as Garlic and Ginger, and normal pick-me-ups like Green Tea and Grapefruit Juice described as “dangerous for heart patients on medication.” These herbs and fruits have been around and routinely, and with impunity, been used for centuries, around the world.
Now I will quote individual remarks that have been given for each herb.
About garlic it says: ‘Garlic's blood-thinning properties can increase the risk of bleeding associated with warfarin, an anti-clotting drug commonly prescribed to people with heart-rhythm disorders, and to people who have had heart attacks or heart-valve replacements.’
About Ginger it says: ‘: Increases the risk of bleeding associated with warfarin.’
About Saw Palmetto it says: ‘Increases the risk of bleeding associated with warfarin.’
About Alfalfa, again the same remark: ‘Increases the risk of bleeding associated with warfarin.’
About our beloved beverage Green Tea it says: ‘Green tea contains vitamin K, which can counteract the effect of warfarin.’
About Bilberry, after confiding to us its very useful property it rolled it contemptuously under the shoes: ‘Bilberry may improve blood circulation, but it can also increase the risk of bleeding associated with warfarin.’
What a cruelty, a herb that ‘improves the blood circulation’ and, hence is harbinger of health and longevity, should be discarded when it comes in the way of multi-millions industry; a single drug that has myriad of side-effects, and opens up the door for many more drugs to counter those side-effects, and so on, ad-infinitum!!! Cannot the medical profession be honest and patient friendly?
Let’s take a concrete case of heart (failure), in a cardiac facility, in a hospital, she is at once given oxygen and two injections of lasix (a powerful diuretic), in rapid succession, and two tablets of Potassium. When she is discharged she is advised to take lasix, twice daily, for few days, then once daily for long time. She is advised to take Neo-K (a potassium mineral preparation), twice daily, because Lasix drains potassium from the system with excess of urine. Since it draws water from the cells or system of the body, it causes thickening of the blood, resulting into coagulation. Hence the need for anti-coagulant and anti-thrombotic agents, as Warfarin, etc., and some blood thinners and anti-platelet agents, as Aspirin (Loprin, Ascard).
Blood thickening caused by the diuretics brings about, we are told, another complication, that of the formation of plaques of lipoid material. Hence the rich industry of hypolipidaemic preparations; of which there are unending and ever-expanding choices.
Now we witness how one medicine, i.e. Lasix, opened the door for so many other costly and dangerous therapeutic delicacies; and how a patient is so tightly iron-jacketed that no loophole is left for his liberation. Even the selection of diuretic, at first instance, technically speaking, is no curative measure, but totally a palliative and short-sighted proviso: fully imprudent. If it gives a good start in the face of emergency, it should be left at that, i.e. an emergency measure. Proper and curative treatment must be sought and followed.
There are other herbs among the eighteen, mentioned in Mayo Clinic’s report, though they do not flirt with Warfarin, but they do other dirty things. For example, Fenugreek ‘lowers blood sugar’, hence cause complications for diabetics. What a dangerous herb, it helps lower sugar of diabetics, without asking permission from these goody-goody specialists. Actea Racemosa, (Black Cohosh) interfere with Statins, Beta- and Cacium-blockers; and, at the tail end, it damages the liver. [An alert for the homeopaths, using cimicifuga, in daily practice!]. And our centuries old friend, the Grapefruit Juice: ‘it doubles the amount of Calcium Channel blocker available to the body. (..? Meaning thereby? Anybody’s imagination!)
Fault lies not with the knowledge, but with the angle of perception, and with the incorrigible greed, that distorts that perception. An herb, i.e. a natural product, if it obviates the need of an alpha-, beta-, and lambda-blockers, it should be given preference over these full-of-side-effects synthetic drugs. The sane approach should have been the preferential use of these time-tested natural recipes evolved by the providence, and thereby cutting down the size of the synthetic agents, according to the progressively lessening need for their use.
My practice in such cases, which come to me from the round of specialists, is not to destabilize them in the least, and let them take their wonted medicines, and I myself try to find the niche from where I can interfere. Then I safely and slowly cut down on the medicines, relevant to which diseases are showing progress. For example, if the patient starts showing better in blood-pressure, by making myself certain of the fact, I start cutting the dose of beta-blockers; and thus slowly liberate the patient totally from their shackles. Same I do with other strains of the diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, etc.
Herbs are not drugs. They are prescriptions, deftly prepared and harmoniously evolved through ages by Nature. These concoctions (i.e. herbs), and their all-inclusiveness and versatility is so incomparable and unparallel that no apothecaries can ever emulate. Take the example of modern funk of saturated dairy fats. Nature has provided counter solution within the product itself. I’ve seen octogenarian people living an enviable life: teeth intact, sight ok, voice roaring as of young, lifting their own luggage and not panting. I’ve also seen people belying the adage: ‘longer the belt, shorter the life’. Their belt was/is so long that it can encircle two bodies like mine. They are eating dairy fats, broth of joints, and liver and brain in their daily foods; and living up to septuagenarian or octogenarian. The use of culinary herbs has been evolved by the wisdom of centuries. Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and cloves, and many other herbs or their seeds or fruits are used as cooking ingredients. They act as statins or hypolipidaemic agents, anti-platelets and anticoagulant agent. They don’t let the system fall sick. Diseases are generated by the modern half-baked and funk-based knowledge, with distrust of the accumulated knowledge and customs of cooking and eating habits of cultures for ages.
Back to Nature, and back to Herbs should be hearkened as the strident call of the time.
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