The Return to Alternative Medicine

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The FINANCIAL — Modern medicine has sharply reduced the popularity of traditional alternative medicine in Georgia.


But lately medical herbs have made a comeback on the market due to the high cost of modern drugs. Statistics show that 90% of students at the Pharmaceutical Faculty of Georgian National Medical University and Iovel Kutateladze Pharmacologic Institute choose phytotherapy as a specialisation.

David Vashadze, Phytotherapist at Neoclinic, said that he receives tens of patients daily. “Diseases of the nervous system and intestine are the most widespread problems among Georgian patients, the same as throughout the world,” Vashadze said.

“A plant is a unique bio-laboratory that a person cannot recreate. The current biochemical processes inside are similar to those of the human organism. So, many biologically active ingredients of a plant are naturally involved in the process of human organism viability. Therefore, herbal preparations act better and are safer on the human body than modern chemical drugs,” said Malkhaz Jokhadze, PhD, Associate Professor of the Pharmacognosy department at Tbilisi State Medical University (TSMU).

The Georgian medical tradition based on folk knowledge goes back to antiquity,” writes Tamara Abuladze, Ph.D. (Philol.), research associate at the National Manuscript Center in Tbilisi. “This is amply confirmed by archaeological finds as well as Georgian hagiography and works by ancient historians (Strabo). It continued to rely on magic, folk, and ecclesiastical information. In the Middle Ages medicine, like all other scientific branches, remained under strong Arabic and Persian influence; it was a time when medical works, karabadini, and books of cures based on Oriental knowledge gained popularity. This is true of general medical compositions as well as works relating to individual aspects of anatomy, physiology, pharmaceutics and diagnostics, and contained both new and old medical information.”

The situation with alternative medicine is too complicated nowadays. Jokhadze says that patients often prefer to follow silly treatments recommended by friends or colleagues. Meanwhile phyto clinics are full of unskilled folk doctors and incompetent staff.

Regarding the current functions of drugstores in the country, pharmacists have started to forget the skills of working with medical plants. Doctors, at the same time, generally avoid subscribing herbal remedies. Today, it is almost impossible to find a drugstore that will themselves prepare decoctions, elixirs, ointments or pills.

Folk medicine is a part of alternative medicine, including the treatment of various diseases with natural remedies. The treasure that is folk medicine has always been passed on from generation to generation by oral or written means.

“In our era, almost everyone is addicted to treating any illness with beautifully packaged, factory-made pills. Meanwhile natural sources of medicine have undeservedly been moved to one side. Of course, synthetic drugs frequently let disease return, while this happens at the expense of a person’s health, even leading to death. People’s love for pills is not without serious disadvantages. Pill users often suffer addiction, not to mention many undesirable side effects,” Jokhadze said.

Jokhadze, TSMU, said that stress, unhealthy lifestyle, unbalanced diets and environmental pollution are serious sources of most diseases. The World Health Organization actively pays attention not only to treating disease, but also on prophylactics. “From the time of Hippocrates it has been well known: it is better to prevent disease than to have to treat it.”

“People often use natural means of healing, primarily phytotherapy, treating diseases with medicinal plants. Nature provides a plant for each disease, Paracelse said, and he was right.  Doctors treat and nature cures – Hippocrates said, which best reflects the principle of folk medicine and general phytotherapy,” Jokhadze said.

According to Vashadze, despite the development of modern science on a high level, many of the medicinal properties of plants have not yet been fully explored. Modern technology allows us to distinguish active compounds from plants and to create natural healing. “A natural combination has not only an effective but also a safe influence,” he assures.

“At the beginning of the third millennium, modern medicine became well established and accepted throughout the world. Strong synthetic drugs are good, but only in the acute stage of a disease. During the restoration process the prevention of seasonal disease is important, and for chronic diseases natural sources are preferable. Their gentle action is recommended for the treatment of everyone, but in particular for children and the elderly,” Vashadze said.

Georgian internet space has several medical websites providing information about folk medicine. The website was founded in 2009. It currently has around 500 visitors daily.

“Articles about folk medicine have always been popular. During the creation of the website I conducted market research to reveal the interests of online readers,” said Inga Mirotadze, 34, Director and Founder of the webpage
Mirotadze said that Georgians always used to be a traditional people. Accordingly, interest towards folk medicine has always been strong. “People use folk medicine mostly when their problem cannot be alleviated by modern medicine. There are lots of people, myself included, who try to avoid taking drugs when unwell. Personally, I do trust modern medicine more though,” she added.

The pharmaceutical faculty at Georgian National Medical University and Iovel Kutateladze Pharmacologic Institute provide sufficient knowledge of folk medicine. “90% of the pharmaceutical faculty chooses phytotherapy as a specialisation,” Vashadze said.

“Folk medicine is the dominant choice for the treatment of relapse, chronic disease, cholecystitis, hepatitis, cystitis, gastritis, enterocolitis, stomach ulcer and bronchitis. Phytotherapy is very useful but self-treatment is not recommended; it is essential to find a qualified person in the field,” Vashadze said.

According to Vashadze, folk medicine is based on simple recipes and they are cheaper than pharmaceutical drugs.

“In India, China, Tibet and Arabia traditional medicine has a history going back many centuries. Chinese traditional medicine went on to become alternative medicine. The Chinese government considers it a national treasure, a symbol of the country. The form of medicine is not that alluring in Georgia however. Georgian flora is rich in plants for treatment but they are not being studied sufficiently. This is an unpolished diamond that could be transformed into something brilliant,” Vashadze told The FINANCIAL.



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