DUBAI // Doctors who prescribe conventional and holistic medicines have said that a lack of availability of alternative remedies in the UAE is affecting their work and their patients’ health.
Complicated import procedures mean medical professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to find herbal and homeopathic medicines that are used to treat a range of ailments, from stomach problems and migraines, to sleep disorders.
Dr Erzebet Makk, an internal medicine specialist and a certified homeopath, combines the two approaches for patients at MedCare Hospital, near Safa Park.
“I struggle, as maybe 70 per cent of the products I would prescribe in Germany are not available here. It makes it hard to know what we can prescribe,” she said.
The doctor said conditions such as digestive disorders could only be approached minimally through conventional medicine and required a more holistic approach.
“An example would be irritable bowel syndrome. You can really only give anti-spasmodics and probiotics, but with a holistic approach you look at underlying issues like anxiety, parasites, food intolerances. These aren’t considered by conventional medicine,” she said.
Although there is demand from practitioners and patients, importing the remedies is a challenge, Dr Makk said. “In Europe they’re made domestically so it’s not an issue but here everything is imported and has to go through many complicated procedures.”
Research, globally and in the UAE, is increasingly proving the legitimacy of using herbs and plants to treat diseases.
At UAE University, scientists have found cancer-curing properties in saffron, while at Manipal University Dubai, researchers have found similar components in green tea.
The pioneering Abu Dhabi medical facility, Zayed Herbal Complex, which falls under the capital’s health authority, has had high success rates treating diabetes and asthma.
Established in 1996 on the instruction of the late Sheikh Zayed, the not-for-profit centre offers treatments using plants grown in the UAE.
“I’ve been here more than 11 years and in terms of demand I can say there’s been huge growth,” said Dr Maria Alonso, who is based at Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre.
Patients want different options to conventional medicine, she said. ” The Arab population is very familiar with herbal treatments from the days of Unani [herbal medicine practised in the Muslim world] so there is particular interest.”
After specialising in preventative medicine in Germany, Dr Alonso trained as a specialist in Chinese medicine to blend conventional and alternative therapies.
“People need alternative treatments for things like colds, digestive issues, because there’s not much pharmaceuticals can do. Often you’re better off with supplements, probiotics, herbs,” Dr Alonso said.
Conventional pharmaceuticals are often overprescribed, which can create further health problems, she said.
Dr Shefali Verma, an integrative medicine specialist, also combines complementary therapies with her medical training. Although she said things were improving slowly, finding the right remedies was still frustrating.
“Coming here from the UK in 2007, where things were much more easily available, it was very frustrating.”
She believes a combined approach is vital, not least when dealing with stomach issues, which can be the root cause of migraines and auto-immune diseases.
“I see a lot of people who’ve gone to conventional doctors and it’s not that they don’t work, but they haven’t fixed the problem, the root cause. I would like to see more of an integrated approach where we can prevent stuff.”
She said only “very rarely” does she prescribe drugs, more often suggesting the use of minerals, probiotics, vitamins and enzymes to address patients’ issues.
Source: uae news