Taking these medications for long periods is more likely to lead to side effects and with time it becomes harder to stop taking the drugs. Dr Porter quotes figures from a recent report on the high numbers of hospital admissions resulting from the adverse effects of drug treatment.
Treatment with Herbal Medicine offers a much safer alternative to both replace the therapeutic action required by the drug and to help in stopping the drug treatment. There are herbal alternatives for all the ten types of medication identified by Dr Porter but I will select five that could be effectively replaced with Herbal Medicine.
In the treatment of osteoporosis, bisphosphonates have been shown to do more harm than good if taken for longer than three to five years although many women are taking them for much longer periods. Recent evidence has identified a number of herbs containing phyto-oestrogens which may be beneficial in increasing bone density and preventing bone loss. These include soya, hops, sage and black cohosh.
Sleeping tablets such as zopiclone should only be prescribed for short periods of a couple of weeks to overcome acute insomnia yet many people take them for much longer periods. They then become less effective, cause side effects and lead to addiction. There are a number of effective sedative herbs such as passion flower, valerian, hops, wild lettuce and California poppy . These can be taken to treat insomnia and to help overcome addiction to zopilcone. They can also be combined with other herbs to help treat the underlying causes of insomnia. The herbs selected vary for each individual patient.
Antidepressants should also not be taken for long periods of time but some people take them for many years. This makes it very difficult to stop the antidepressant treatment. Herbal medicines can help and there are a number which are effective for mild to moderate depression such as St John’s Wort, skullcap and rhodiola.
Anti-acid drugs such as the proton pump inhibitors omeprazole and lansoprazole are very widely prescribed for acid reflux and indigestion and there is growing concern about the millions of people who take them continually. Often the cause of acid reflux is not full identified and may not be the result of too much acid. If taken for long periods the symptoms can return with a vengeance if they are stopped. Long term use has been linked with weakened bones, heart problems and vitamin B12 and magnesium deficiency. There are number of herbs that can be used for treatment to reduce acid production, reduce inflammation, improve mucosal resistance, tone the lower oesophageal spincter and improve digestion.
There is much controversy over the prescribing of statins to reduce cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. These drugs are taken for long periods and in some the side effects can out way any possible benefit. Herbal medicine should be considered as there are herbs such as artichoke which can reduce blood cholesterol levels and herbs such as hawthorn which can improve heart function.
Much more consideration needs to be given as to the benefit of the continued prescribing of these drugs and the possibility of using herbal medicines as a safe, effective alternative.