Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Herbs over Chemicals?

  1. Nov 23, 2008 #1
    The other night I had two friends at the house for a gathering. One is an herbalist and the other is some sort of doctor, I'm not sure of his specific job title. However that is not important. These two began to bicker about medical techniques. In your opinion are herbs a better way to treat something or is normal medicine better. I do have a few other questions which I will list below.
    Is it true that it is impossible for your body to build up immunity to herbs like it can with medicine?
    I've heard that most medicines treat the symptom but not the cause, herbs work the opposite way. Is this true?
    Is it more dangerous to use herbs or chemicals to treat something?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2008 #2
    I don't know of any magic plants. But some plants contain medically useful chemicals.

    It's rubbish.

    Now you are contrasting chemicals with chemicals.
  4. Nov 23, 2008 #3
    first of all, Mars, i think herbalists are a little goofy in general. their whole philosophy revolves around natural=good, synthetic=bad. and i'm not against herbal in general. i think if someone wants to use ephedra instead of ephedrine sulphate, that should be their right. but that mormon tea might not agree with some people because of the mix of chemicals in it.

    some others, like say yohimbe, are definitely worse in herbal form. if you take yohimbine bark, you'll actually get a very "dirty" response with more nausea and anxiety symptoms than if you'd just taken yohimbine HCl. this is because yohimbe, like ephedra, contains a mix of alkoloids, making the receptors they target more broad and less specific.

    as for doctors, they've got their faults as well. i don't think it's drugs themselves that treat symptoms-not-disease these days, it's the doctors themselves. i don't know if it's simply a lack of time, critical thinking, or too much hubris, but the problem is there.
  5. Nov 23, 2008 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Herbs are chemicals. You just do not know as well what chemicals are present. In a processed product the chemical content is very well known and held to strict standards. There are no standards among plants. The concentration of any specific chemical in the plants make up can vary from crop to crop and even plant to plant. There is a lot of variability, so if not knowing what you are taking is good then herbs are very good indeed.
  6. Nov 23, 2008 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    Yeah, I have always found that philosophy rather silly too. After all, botulin toxin, poison ivy, anthrax, ebola, etc. are all natural too.
  7. Nov 24, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Are you familiar with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmacognosy" [Broken]? This is an entire branch of pharmacy studying plants that have useful medicinal properties.
    It is my understanding (from a botanical perspective), that herbal medicinals do contain many known pharmaceutically active compounds, but in lower concentration than their chemically synthesized counterparts.
    In Chinese culture, their medicinal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_herbs" [Broken] is widely practiced and has developed over many centuries. Some items, such as use of ginseng, date back a couple thousand years.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook