The trend of self-medicating with natural medicine is on the rise in many parts of the world, which means having pharmacists trained in the field of complementary medicine would be nice.
The line drawn between conventional and complementary medication is but an artificial barrier.
Key components in foods, such as nutrients, are important for maintaining good health and treating several health conditions. Therefore, food is medicine, said Blackmores Institute director Dr Lesley Braun.
The trend of self-medicating with natural medicine is on the rise in many parts of the world, including Malaysia, “due to increased awareness and ease of availability”, said Dr Braun, who is also Honorary Associate Professor at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (University of Western Sydney) and adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Monash/Alfred Psychiatric Research Centre in Australia.
As society moves towards self-medicating naturally, the need for pharmacists and medical professionals to be trained in the field of complementary medicines increases.
“We have recently conducted a consumer behaviour study, and findings of the research stated that approximately 90% of consumers want their pharmacists to advise them about the safety and effectiveness of complementary medicines. However, only 58% think their pharmacists are knowledgeable about complementary medicines,” she said, adding that Blackmores Institute helps bridge the gap between conventional medicines and complementary medicines by providing training for pharmacy professionals.
“Consumers are actively seeking, and they are getting a lot of information from various sources... which is good, but it is also potentially harmful,” said Dr Braun.
The institute functions as the research and education division of Blackmores Limited, a natural health product company. It works with those in complementary medicine practice and research to evaluate and communicate current issues, furthering the application and relevance of natural health.
According to studies conducted by institute, complementary medicines can interact with conventional medications.
“Some are good interactions and a handful are bad interactions. Co-enzyme Q10, for instance, produces good interaction when taken with statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs).
“St John’s Wort is an effective natural anti-depressive. However, it produces negative interaction when taken with oral contraception and may produce blood thinning effects,” Dr Braun said.
She added that it is simply not enough to learn from hearsay and unqualified sources when it comes to self-medicating.
“If you find something good, take it to a qualified professional and discuss the interactions, dosage and side effects in order to reap the full benefits of natural medications.
“A qualified naturopath or pharmacist, who is medically trained, would have the understanding of underlying pathological and biological changes in the body as a result of disease, and would be able to rationalise phytochemistry and natural pharmacology in order to provide safe and right prescription.“We have a role to analyse the latest evidence-based research and information, and present a diverse range of perspectives to healthcare practitioners and those working in the field of natural health,” she concluded.