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In one of your questions and answers you mentioned that there are herbal and dietetic "meds" for people in poor countries because they can't afford traditional medications. There must be a body of work available from them over the last 50 years or so - aren't they controlling the disease? Or do they simply not control the disease at all?


There is indeed an extensive literature on herbal remedies for disease; but to my knowledge no encyclopedia on the subject. I assume however that you were primarily interested in diabetes.

In the case of Type 2 Diabetes, treatment in the third world is for the most part by calorie restriction where there is no access to oral medications or insulin. Ironically, protein-calorie malnutrition can produce a form of nutrition which can be cured by skim milk powder if that can be obtained and there is another form of diabetes due to tapioca poisoning which can be treated if it is recognised and the main calorie source can be changed. Herbs and unguents like Tiger Balm are used as placebos; but they are not effective, though the Japanese have reported some success with Goshajinkigen in neuropathy in rats.

In Type 1 Diabetes there are some herbal remedies that are supposedly free radical scavengers, such as the Ayurvedic Sandhika and Mellotus repandus, which in theory might prolong the honeymoon period; but there is no substitute for insulin. As you can imagine, this is a sad problem in much of the third world, although thankfully the incidence of Type 1 Diabetes in Asian, Black and Hispanic populations is significantly less than in Caucasians. In Ghana, in the villages, they just put a leaf on the child's forehead. In Brazil, I recently met two pediatric endocrinologists who were interested in diabetes and were able to survive professionally through the 'carriage trade;' but who also were working much of there time with the street children. They described very vividly their struggles to get any form of insulin for these outcasts.

Much the same story can be told about antibiotics and this is why Pneumococcal vaccination ranks almost with oral rehydration as one of the great child health achievements since World War II.


Original posting 6 Jan 97


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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