Natural Medicine: What’s new at the pharmacy?

Natural Medicine: What’s new at the pharmacy?
28 August 2017
South Africa is home to a richly diverse range of flora and fauna, that have been traditionally used for medicinal purposes.

Interestingly, there’s been significant progress made towards incorporating traditional, herbal and complementary medicines into legislative frameworks, putting these medicinal substances under further scrutiny by the government. But that’s a good thing – here’s why:

A little history lesson
Historically, medicines began as plant or herb-based treatments that were used to cure illness, or helped to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. But, as time and science moved forward, the pharmaceutical world came to the fore, bringing with it great leaps in medical technology. It’s thanks to the pharmaceutical scientists that we have antibiotics and a wide variety of medical treatments that can cure, heal, and help us when fighting off illness and disease.

What your doctor prescribes
But, in 2012, the Medicines and Related Substances Act went through a range of transformations, and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority was initiated. This authority will, in the long run, replace the Medicines Control Council, and further legislation now enables the registration and regulation of traditional, natural and complementary medicinal substances. That’s why, when you’re next visiting your doctor, they’re now able to prescribe an even wider range of treatments to you, with many of them having once been available for purchase over the counter.

The search for melatonin
One of the most popular over-the-counter natural treatments in South Africa was Melatonin. Typically, Melatonin is a hormone that’s produced by the body and is at its highest level at night, because it helps you fall asleep. Melatonin supplements were being used by people who were fighting jetlag or trying to overcome sleep disturbances. In recent years, however, it has become a scheduled substance, now only available for use through a doctor’s prescription. This has been a source of frustration for some, but it’s a good indicator of just how seriously natural and complementary medicines are now being taken by government. Moreover, obtaining a prescription for Melatonin is reportedly not difficult and patients will benefit from having their doctor review their personal medical history before prescribing it. It is highly important that, before beginning any sort of treatment – natural or otherwise – your doctor can review your personal health record to ensure that it’s the right type of treatment for you. Despite popular belief, even natural or complementary remedies can have side effects, or unsuitable interactions with other substances.

More treatment options
As more and more natural, traditional and complementary medicines become regulated and assessed, this opens up a wide range of treatment options for you and your family. Importantly too, with rigorous scientific assessment becoming part and parcel of these treatments’ availability, you can be assured of their safety and effectiveness. So, the next time you’re popping in to your doctor for a check-up, or looking for some health-related guidance, don’t be surprised if you see new treatment options listed on your script.

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