Nature's Pharmacy: Do You Have a Green Tongue?

By Vamos, Sandra | Journal of School Health, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Nature's Pharmacy: Do You Have a Green Tongue?


Vamos, Sandra, Journal of School Health


Herbal medicine is one of the most ancient forms of health care known to humankind. The use of plants for healing purposes has been prevalent in all cultures throughout history and continues to playa role in medicine today. With an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 plants on earth today, approximately 25% of all prescription drugs are derived from these plants. (1) Over the past decade, there has been a widespread use of natural herbal medicine in lieu of the use of synthetic, prescription drugs due to the growing concern of side effects from such pharmaceutical drugs. In the United States, the annual retail sales of herbal products have skyrocketed from $200 million in 1988 to more than $5.1 billion in 1997. (2) From using Saint John's-wort to treat depression to using Echinacea to battle the common cold, many households are turning to natural remedies to care for their families. While herbal medicine has much to offer, adverse effects can result from lack of quality control and standardization, consuming an inadequate dose, using the wrong herb, and reactions with modern drugs. (3,4) To promote safe health care consumerism, a thorough examination of the herbs that are among the most widely used natural medications in America is suggested. Health educators have the opportunity to initiate discussions and implement lessons regarding herbal medicine. This teaching strategy invites students to access credible information related to herbal medicine needed for its safe implementation into daily lives.

Lesson Objectives

As a result of participating in this activity, students will be able to

1. identify commonly used herbs to prevent and treat acute and chronic health conditions;

2. identify important potential interactions between herbal preparations and conventional drugs and other safety considerations;

3. increase awareness of diverse cultural folk remedies that have now evolved into modern health care;

4. identify and access various resources essential to research herbal remedies and collect accurate background information relevant to each plant; and

5. synthesize research and organize data to create an informative scrapbook to inform others of safe use of nature's pharmacy.

Materials

Educational and research materials on herbal medicine from Web sites, journal articles, books, and local health food stores.

Copies of Rubric for Assessment of Nature's Pharmacy Scrapbook.

Grade Level and Subject Area

This lesson is designed for high school or college students. It could be incorporated into a Health Care Consumerism unit and/or Nutrition unit in a high school health curriculum. It could also be incorporated in a Wellness course, Holistic Health course, Disease & Illness course, or a Health & Cultural Awareness course at the college and university level.

Activities and Strategies

As the anticipatory set, ask students if they have a "green tongue" (not to be confused with "green thumb'). Ask students to share specific examples of any natural nonprescription and prescription remedies they have used to prevent/treat health conditions. Referring to the examples offered, query students of their awareness of any known potential side effects or safety concerns associated with its use. Inform students that although herbal preparations are often used for common acute conditions, herbal medicine also have been found to be beneficial on treating chronic conditions such as asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and dementia. (4)

Introduce students to the basic principles of herbal medicine versus modern medicine using overhead transparencies of create a chart on the blackboard for comparison purposes. The teacher may wish to research herbal medicine prior to the lesson to offer specific examples of how conventional drugs originated from plant sources such as aspirin from willow bark, digoxin from foxglove, and quinine from cinchona bark. …

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