MANILA, MARCH 24, 2008 (STAR) Cough is probably the most common ailment suffered by millions of people worldwide.

In America alone, USA Today reports that nearly 30 million of the 829 million annual visits to doctors are for cough treatment.

Likewise, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association says Canadians spend about $80 million yearly on cough syrups, making cough a leading ailment in the country.

No specific figure is available in the Philippines, but the increasing sales of over-the-counter cough medications prove that cough is also a public concern.

Herbs in history

The search for the perfect cough remedy dates back through the centuries when men first discovered the beneficial use of medicinal plants.

The earliest records on herbal medicines can be traced 5,000 years ago to the Sumerians. Clay tablets excavated in Nipur showed that the Sumerians had mastered the use of 300 medicinal herbs including opium, myrrh, laurel caraway, and thyme.

An Egyptian scroll dating back to 1500 B.C., meanwhile, listed more than 850 medicinal plants and remedies. In her book, the Natural History of Medicinal Plants, Judith Summer said that garlic and onions were fed to the pyramid-building slaves to prevent infection and discourage tapeworms.

The popularity of herbal medicines continued to the Middle Ages. Their use began to wane in the 17th century with the introduction of active chemical drugs such as arsenic, copper sulfate, iron, mercury and sulfur.

This trend continued until the 20th century. According to the American Herbalist Guild, “In 1987 about 85 percent of modern drugs were originally derived from plants. Currently, only about 15 percent of drugs are derived from plants.”

Herbal medicines regain popularity

In the last 20 years, however, herbal plants began to regain their popularity. The increasing public dissatisfaction with the cost of prescription medications, combined with the potential short- and long-term side effects of chemical drugs such as addiction, irregular palpitations, drowsiness and dizziness, led to an increase in the use of herbal medicines.

In Germany, roughly 600 to 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by approximately 70 percent of German physicians, according to Sun Spot Natural, an online organization promoting natural health care products.

Likewise, the Philippines is turning to herbal medicines with no less than the Department of Health and Department of Science and Technology promoting herbal remedies for the last 15 years.

And one of the herbal medicines that the DOH is endorsing is lagundi, a common medicinal shrub in the Philippines.

Lagundi can also be found in the popular cough treatment, ASCOF Lagundi by Pascual Laboratories. It comes in modernized dosage formats, tablet and syrup (ponkan and menthol flavors).

It has been clinically proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of cough and bronchial asthma. And, it is 100 percent organically produced.

Based on clinical studies, it does not cause side effects and offers less risk from overdose and complications such as palpitations, drowsiness and tremors that are commonly experienced in other chemical cough formulations.

Lagundi, after all, continues to be one of the DOST’s most successful herbal medicines. In fact, it made Philippine history when it won the Silver Medal in the 25th International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products in Geneva, Switzerland.

With this and other herbal medicines being discovered or re-discovered, cough treatments have gone full circle.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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