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Kurds turn to herbal medicine when modern medicine fails.

Summary: The unregulated herbal market grows in Kurdistan, raising concerns

When modern medicine failed to work, 27-year-old Aram Mohammed turned to herbal remedies to cure his severe hair loss.

"I used medical drugs for more than six months, but all were futile," Mohammed said. "Of course, the herbal remedies didn't bring my hair back, but they stopped me from losing more hair."

Natural remedies have a long history in the Kurdish community; the cures that our ancestors used for centuries are still relatively popular today.

The Region has many herbal pharmacies, such as the well-known Al-Baraka, Biyara and Hawraman in Erbil, which prescribe herbal medicines.

There are few experts in the field of herbal medicine in Kurdistan. Almost all the herbal remedies on the shelves are prescribed by unqualified staff.

Al-Baraka owner, Sha'aban Mohammed, 43, prescribes stinging nettle and sage to an elderly diabetic man. "Many people have tried it and most were satisfied with the result," Mohammed assured his customer.

Mohammed opened his store two years ago and filled it with hundreds of traditional remedies, mostly imported from Iran, Turkey and Syria. Business is good; he recently opened a second and third store in Erbil city.

Mohammed noted that his customers have complaints and conditions including diabetes, backache, stomach ache, hair loss or they>re overweight.

'The herbal cures are completely harmless," he said. "For example, if I mistakenly give a diabetic patient a hair-loss remedy, and the patient takes it, there is no danger." He says, "If a herb were dangerous, I would never let my family use it.'

There is currently no official system or regulations for who can prescribe or sell herbal remedies. Absolutely anyone can prescribe these treatments.

Dr. Alaadin M. Naqishbandi, head of the Department of Pharmacology, an expert in pharmacology at Erbil Collage of Pharmacy said, "Selling herbal drugs by untrained people is wrong and does not safeguard patients."

A1/2We need regulation. Anyone who sells herbal cures should at least know basic things about herbs. There are different types of herbs, and they have side effects, just like any medication," Naqishbandi said."The rules should be the same as for all drugs."

Naqishbandi said only 20 percent of herbal remedy sellers rely on experience and the rest need educating about the effects of herbal remedies. Many people assume that because herbal remedies are natural, they must be safe. But herbal products and drugs can kill you. "Many people have died, but no one knows about it."

Another reason why people turn to herbal remedies is because some drugs are not available on the market. So, people look for an herbal equivalent.

The Ministry of Health in Kurdistan has yet to impose any restrictions on herbal remedies or herbalists. So, thousands of imported herbs line the shelves of stores, and are sold without any oversight.

"There is no difference between smugglers and unqualified herbalists," General Director of Health Affairs Dr. Jamil Ali Rashid said. "Nobody criticized them and no death cases have been seen so far." Jamil said. "If we hear of a case, sure, we will take action."

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Publication:The Kurdish Globe (Erbil, Iraq)
Date:Apr 10, 2011
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