Tounderstand how herbals will affect my life, I would like to start by looking attheir origins and how their use has changed recently.
Herbal medicines have avery long and rich history, dating back thousands of years and having roots inancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures. While herbal medicines were once at theforefront of healthcare in ancient societies such as these, they have recentlygiven way to today’s medication therapies which have predominantly taken theform of synthetically produced drugs and monoclonal antibodies. However,despite our recent innovations in drug therapy, the use of herbals is on therise. In the United Statesalone, herbal use has increased significantly over the last 30 years. This isreflected in a chart presented by Dr. Eisenberg detailing overall herbal use inthe U.S.from 1990-2008.
In the chart, he notes that in 1990 only 2.5% of Americans usedherbal therapy1,2, but by 2007 that number had increased nearly8-fold to 18% of Americans.1,3 Although these numbers aresignificant, they still leave a 10 year gap unfilled. To remedy this situation,I found a study by Rashrash et al.
titled Prevalenceand Predictors of Herbal Medicine Use Among Adults in the United States,which was published in 2017. In the study, Rashrash and his colleagues foundthat of the 26,157 people included in the study, 35% of them used at least 1herbal medicine.4 While the data presented above only applies to theUnited States, the rest of the world is showing similar trends. Many factorscould be contributing to this increase in herbal usage.
One possible reasoncould be linked to current prescription drug costs and patient’s frustrationwith them. For these patients, herbals can provide a potential remedy at afraction of the cost. On top of this, more herbals are available today thanthere were 30 years ago, and once again Dr. Eisenberg makes note of this in hispresentation.
He indicates that prior to the passing of DSHEA in 1994, therewere only about 4,000 supplements available.1 However, by 2012 thatnumber had exploded to 55,000 and it can only be assumed that it is even largertoday.1 While this rise in herbal utilization, prevalence, andspending may appear daunting due to our lack of knowledge about them, it doesprovide pharmacists like me with a unique opportunity to broaden our medicinalhorizon.