Traditional medicine is practised in almost all countries of the world, developed and developing alike. However, traditional medicines are more popular in the developing countries where almost 60 to 80 percent of people depend on these medicines for maintaining their health and well being. Although many people prefer traditional medicines, critics of these medicines dismiss them as ineffective and useless. In light of this dual situation, the merits and demerits of traditional medicines are discussed below.
- Traditional medicine is more acceptable to the common people, particularly those of the developing countries, partly because of their lower prices than modem medicine and partly due to the fact that traditional medicine is deeply rooted in their cultures.
- As traditional medicines are prepared from natural raw materials by using older technology, they are cheaper than modern medicines, which are prepared with expensive synthetic and natural chemical compounds using highly sophisticated modern technology.
- Traditional medicines are more accessible to most of the population of the developing countries because of their easy availability. They heavily rely on traditional medicines as modern medicines. are beyond their reach both in price and availability.
- As the traditional medicines are mostly compounded from natural substances they are believed to be readily accepted by the biological systems of the human body.
- Traditional medicines are normally less toxic and show little or no side-effects. This is mainly due to the fact that the concentration of active constituents in traditional medicines is usually low and a number of apparently inactive substances are present in them, which may reduce the toxic effects of the active constituents.
- Causative organisms do not normally develop resistance against traditional medicines, which they commonly do against antibiotics and synthetic chemotherapeutic drugs of modern medicine.
- Treatment procedure in traditional medicine is less complicated and less time-consuming than modem medicine. The patient does not have to go through long processes of registration, initial check-ups, various diagnostic tests in the hematology, pathology or radiology · laboratories and finally waiting in a long queue· to consult the doctor, which are common in modem system of treatment. In traditional system, the patient has almost ready access to the · practitioner, who devotes his .undivided attention to his patient.
- Traditional medicine is a potential source of new drugs, as a source of cheap starting materials for the synthesis of new drugs and a cheap source of known drugs.
- Traditional medicine practitioners serve as additional sources of health manpower and contribute significantly in providing health care services to a vast majority of the population in the developing countries.
Although traditional system of medicine is a widely practised as a popular system of medicine for thousands of years, particularly in the developing countries, the system is often dismissed by its critics as an unscientific and useless system, mainly because of the following draw-backs:
- Sufficient scientific investigations and clinical or pharmacological experiments have not proved the claims of efficacy of most traditional medicines as made by their practitioners.
- There are no precise or standard methods of diagnosis in traditional medicine. The different practitioners use their own methods based on their individual experiences in diagnosing various diseases. Most of these methods are unscientific and at times irrational, which often lead to imprecise and wrong diagnosis of the diseases.
- Treatments of diseases based on wrong diagnosis or on apparent symptoms often lead to further complications.
- No definite dosage system is followed in preparing traditional medicines. Such absence of specific and scientifically rational dosage system in traditional medicine make the system less credible.
- Some unhygienic practices as used in handling, processing and preparing traditional medicines make them unacceptable to many potential consumers.
- Strict maintenance of personal and environmental hygiene is often found lacking among the practitioners and manufacturers of traditional medicines, which affects the quality and safety of the products.
- The intangible aspects of some forms of traditional medicine, like occult practices, use of spiritual or supernatural methods, religious and faith healing system, are questionable, as they cannot be verified scientifically.