Herbal medicine is something we hear often when it comes to supplements and dealing with simple symptoms like colds and fevers. However, besides the different blends of tea and green-looking capsules, a lot of people don’t really know much about herbal medicine.
What Is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal medicine, as the name suggests, are naturally-derived ingredients used to cure ailments and illnesses. These medicinal products have active ingredients that are derived from certain parts of the plant like roots, leaves, flowers, and even bark.
Like conventional medicine, they affect how your body functions. This means that they have the potential to be just as beneficial as conventional medicine. Herbal medicine is also used to cure more serious diseases and infections like influenza or herpes.
The effectivity, however, also implies the propensity to cause just as much harm. Just because these products are marketed as “natural” doesn’t mean that they are necessarily safer.
Potential Risks of Herbal Medicine
In using herbal medicine, there are certain risks and issues involved with how these herbal medicines are made, marketed, and regulated.
To begin with, the evidence for most herbal medicine is very limited. Oftentimes, the evidence is either lacking or anecdotal. This creates problems with how these treatments are documented.
Side effects or bad reactions are also common because of how the ingredients are documented. For most products, the origins of the ingredients are listed but they do not necessarily go into the details of the product on the chemical level.
Because of this, it may cause adverse effects due to allergies, irritation, or other medicine that you might be taking. This creates problems with regulation as well.
Herbal Medicine for COVID-19
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts are made on the global level to arrive at a cure or treatment for the disease.
In a press conference held mid-April 2020, Chinese officials announced that there were herbal drugs that were approved to be marketed as a possible treatment to COVID-19 symptoms.
These herbal drugs are Lianhuaqingwen, Jinhuaqinggan, and Xuebijing. Lianhuaqingwen comes in capsule form and Jinhuaqinggan comes in granule forms, and both are marketed for use for mild conditions.
Xuebijing, on the other hand, comes as an injectable and is marketed for use in severe conditions.
These are the drugs believed to “treat” COVID-19 in China and are said to alleviate the patient of symptoms including cough, fatigue, and fever. Allegedly, it also reduces the probability of the patient’s sickness from exacerbating.
However, no further details were discussed.
Risks of COVID-19 Herbal Treatments
Before we discuss the problems behind these herbal COVID-19 “treatments,” it is important to remember that, as of writing, there are no drugs that have been documented by internationally recognized peer-reviewed scientific journals to be of high-quality or which have passed clinical trials.
This is to say that there are no drugs, herbal or otherwise, that have substantial evidence proving their efficacy against COVID-19.
In-vitro investigations, which is the administering of these herbal “treatments” done on consenting patients, and anecdotal investigations are the only standards of evidence for these herbal treatments.
Knowing that such a gap in current knowledge exists makes it irresponsible to market these as treatments for such a disease.
These may lead to adverse consequences considering no significant research has been made to evaluate the risks of using these drugs.
That is exactly what happened with Xiyanping, an injectable herbal drug that was green-lighted by the Chinese Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol of COVID-19.
After its release and announcement as a treatment against COVID-19, it was recalled for harmful side effects.
Flaws in the Treatment’s Reputation
Some may argue that these drugs are safe because they are widely used. However, this assumption is false considering all drugs that have a degree of efficacy carry their risks.
Additionally, the fact that these have been used for decades or even centuries does not imply that they are safe for use against a new disease, and COVID-19 is one of these novel diseases. In the end, these treatments are still unreliable and remain unproven.
The risk is especially high considering these herbal drugs are sold over-the-counter as generic treatments. This means that anyone, given the wrong information, may self-medicate upon self-diagnosis.
This, along with the risk of possible side effects like that of Xiyanping, makes this pandemic riskier on many levels. On a personal level, it is risky because the patient might inflict lasting damage upon themselves through self-diagnosis and self-medication.
On the societal level, it is likely that this self-medication would affect the people around them. Even if these are effective in rendering the patient asymptomatic, they are still unidentified vectors of the disease which may cause cases to spike.
With these issues happening in real-time amidst a pandemic, it is important that we remain vigilant with the validity of the information we encounter.
There are numerous resources available online and we must leave the diagnosis, treatment, and medical discussion of COVID-19 to the doctors and experts.
Herbal medicine is a valid field of medicine. However, this does not mean that these herbal treatments are safer.
Many have not been subjected to a standard similar to that of conventional medicine.
At the time of writing, no treatments for COVID-19 have been deemed a reputable option.
In times of doubt, make sure to consult a doctor or a medical expert to understand and fact-check sources. This way, we can better protect our health and become more responsible citizens of the world.
When it comes to herbal medicine treatment for COVID, an extremely infectious disease, it is best to consult a doctor and make extra cautious decisions.
Learn more updates about COVID-19 here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.