February 25, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

A doctor practicing modern and alternative medicine has cautioned the public about foregoing their medications and opting to use alternative or traditional medicines instead for various ailments.

Like the conventional medications widely used worldwide, traditional and alternative medications are not panacea and their use should also be exercised with caution, said Dr. Joseph Alunes, medical specialist IV of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Department of Fa-mily and Community Medicine.

“There’s a wrong notion na basta natural, okay. Remember that there are also contraindications,” Alunes said, preferring to call traditional and alternative medicine “integrative medicine” for these are administered to complement a patient’s current medication.

He reminded that doctors, medical experts, and even the Department of Health recognize some forms of alternative and traditional treatment and medicine but others need more researches to prove their efficacy.

“We do not advise patients to stop their medication. There should be an informed decision-making,” Alunes said, stressing that if the patient decides to shift or compliment his medication and/or treatment, this should be with guidance of a doctor.

Alternative treatment recognized by the DOH is the traditional Chinese treatment of acupuncture and moxibustion.

On the other hand, herbal medicines endorsed by the DOH are lagundi (for cough), yerba buena (for stomach ache), sambong (diuretic), tsaang gubat (diarrhea and stomachache), niyug-niyogan (anti-helmintic), ba-yabas (for wound disinfection), akapulko (for fungal infection), and ulasimang bato (for uric acid).

These herbal medicines are now dispensed in capsule form in drugstores after its recommended dosage has been established through series of tests and researches, and which have been verified by the Food and Drug Administration.

Meanwhile, Alunes said he is hopeful that plans to establish a traditional and alternative medicine center at the BGHMC will come into fruition.

Citing a 2022 study by the World Health Organization Global Centre for Traditional Medicine that showed that compared to 20 years ago, 88 percent of all countries use traditional or alternative medication such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, yoga, ayurveda, and indigenous therapies, among others,

However, Alunes said alternative and traditional medicine is still facing a lot of challenges such as state regulations, assessment for safety and efficacy, quality control, safety monitoring, and inadequate or poor knowledge among government regulatory agencies about traditional or alternative medicine.

He said establishing an alternative medicine center can help harness these forms of medications while complimenting conventional or Western medicine.