KARACHI, Oct 4: Some plants have dozens of medicinal properties. This is why over the years their use has been increasing steadily all over the world, including the western countries.

In 2000 the world used medicinal plants and complimentary medicines worth $80 billion. The World Bank projects that by 2050 the use of such medicines will be to the tune of $5 trillion.

However, even though some of these medicines have been in use for many centuries, exactly how these act and what their side effects may be have not been documented fully. This is the main reason why the synthetic drugs have found more favour with the publics even in the developing countries.

Speakers at a seminar entitled “Scientific Basis of Complementary Medicines: Global and National Perspectives” — organized on Saturday jointly by the HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, the Pakistan Society of Physicians, and the College of Family Medicine — stressed the need to scientifically chart the medicinal actions and side effects of garlic, ginger and ispaghol, besides other naturally occurring ‘medicines’.

They were of the view that the government should play its due role in this regard. Until the system of alternative medication was standardized, the complementary medicines could not be popularized.

Dr Farnaz Malik told the audience that a draft had already been prepared in this regard and submitted to the authorities. However, one speaker — Dr Anwarul Hasan Gilani of the Aga Khan University — was of the opinion that much like the Malaysian government, the Pakistani authorities should restrict themselves to ensuring good quality, through scientific production, and safety, through clinical trials.

Whether a patient should be given synthetic drugs or natural ones should be left to the person in question, he said.

On the occasion, Dr Viqaruddin Ahmed of the HEJ Institute said ‘Ajmaleen’ had been discovered by the late Prof Salimuzzaman Siddiqui. “However, ‘Ajmaleen hydrochloride’ was patented and marketed by the Germans because a number of years had passed between its discovery and marketing,” he said.

He disclosed that Dr Siddiqui did not get a penny for discovering ‘Ajmaleen’, which was effective against cardiac ailments. He also spoke at length about the acid-reducing properties of ginger.

In response, Dr Gilani said ginger had 50 active compounds that could be used to treat afflictions. “In fact, it’s not unusual to find dozens of active compounds in naturally occurring and mundane objects like ginger and garlic.”

Answering a question, Prof M.A. Qayyum said campo medicines were not very effective in emergencies but were good enough to be prescribed in outpatient departments. Prof Ejaz Vohra of Ziauddin Medical University said even though these medicines were not effective in emergencies, they were important because on the whole they helped mankind combat afflictions.

The speakers said garlic — which is known to be effective in cardiac conditions — should be chewed, not swollen because doing so neutralizes some of its effects. “Similarly, if garlic is cooked, alkaloids are destroyed, hence a loss of effect,” said Dr Razaur Rehman of the Civil Hospital Karachi.

They pointed out that hakeems since time immemorial had been combining various herbal medicines and their extracts to come up with medicines that acted against a number of afflictions. Ispaghol if used extensively in winter could give rise to certain problems. “That’s why some hakeems recommend that ispaghol be used along with honey,” said one of them.

Combining the use of complementary medicines with synthetic drugs is a new phenomena that has been undertaken in the US on a limited scale, said the speakers.

The vote of thanks was presented by Zaman Sheikh.

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