Monday, November 15, 2010

Choosing between herbs and synthetics

The rainy season usually gives birth to a quirky sort of chorus. These days, I hear a lot of grande renditions of “ehem-ehems” that are coupled with some occasional wheezing and sneezing. Sadly, this chorus often longs to include my little one.

As a working solo parent, I find going through labels of over-the-counter drugs time-consuming. So what I do is to remain faithful to the prescription of doctors who advise the use of synthetic medicines all the time. But lately, ads of herbal cough medicines seem to challenge my loyalty.

Again, as a parent, I want the best remedy for my daughter. What attracts me to herbal cough medicines is the claim that they are the safest cough medicine on the shelf. On the other hand, what encourages me to continue with synthetic cough medicine is its supposed ability to cure cough faster and more effectively than other remedies.

At this point, I ask myself, herbs or synthetics?

If I have to rely on the ads alone, then I guess my dilemma will be reduced to something like, Vic Sotto or ordinary moms? This is mainly because two of the most visible brands on TV claim that they are the best (while also attacking the other). Reading through the comparison of herbal and synthetic cough medicine TV commercials gave me this insight.

That is why I decided to come up with my own little research.

First Source: The LABELS (Drug Information)

Time-consuming as it may be, the labels are still the best source of drug information. I got the info of the first three brands from the boxes/leaflet in my medicine cabinet while for the last, I got the info from MIMS Philippines.

1. Bisolvon (Bromhexine HCl)
a. Indication: cough due to an acute or chronic respiratory disease associated with hard, sticky phlegm (mucolytic)
b. Precautions: Pregnant and lactating women (not recommended)
c. Possible side effects: immune system disorder, skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders and respiratory, mediastinal and thoracic disorders: allergic reaction…, gastrointestinal disorders: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upper abdominal pain; can be taken by diabetics and people with heart ailments

2. Loviscol (Carbocisteine)
a. Indications: chronic disorders of the respiratory tract associated with excessive or viscous mucus, such as chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and otits media with effusion including glue ear (mucolytic)
b. Precautions: patients with a history of gastric or duodenal ulcer and GI bleeding; carcinogenesis, mutagenesis and impairment of fertility (long-term animal studies not performed; effect on human fertility unknown); safety not established for pregnant and lactating women, and children below age of one
c. Possible side effects: not stated on box; possibly on enclosed leaflet which I no longer have

3. Ascof (Vitex negundo L. Lagundi Leaf)
a. Indications: For relief of mild to moderate cough due to common colds and flu
b. Precautions: Pregnant and lactating women (not studied)
c. Possible side effects: None were reported in the clinical trials for the syrup.

4. Solmux (Carbocisteine)
a. Indications: Relief of cough associated w/ excessive and tenacious sputum or phlegm as in acute and chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, otitis media w/ effusion and glue ear
b. Precautions: History of gastric or duodenal ulcer & GI bleeding. Pregnancy & lactation
c. Possible side effects: not stated

Second Source: FRIENDS

I ran a quick survey on Facebook and Twitter. And here are some comments:

1. [herbal cough medicine] did not work for me
2. Honey is a natural way to relieve a coughy throat.
3. Fluimucil for productive cough. Tastes bad, but I was told it's the only real mucolytic, haha. Oh, it's not a cough syrup, you mix it with water. : )

Brands used by friends include Ascof Lagundi, Benadryl, Fluimucil, Solmux (capsule), and Tuseran. It seems that most of my friends are synthetic users.

So is it herbal or synthetic?

As the question has become Ascof vs. Solmux, I chanced upon Ascof and Solmux: A Comparison of Two Cough Remedies that seems to point out that making a comparison of the two is not valid.

Summing it up, Ascof may have all the advantages over Solmux. But, these drugs possess dissimilar modes of action. Solmux is a mucolytic while Ascof is a simple cough formula with an anti-asthma effect. Ascof won’t be effective enough if the cough will be involving too much phlegm in the lungs. On the contrary, Solmux will not be also suitable for a simple cough with asthma involved.

It is good that companies advertise their products so that people will be aware of the choices they have. They are empowering for as long as they don't mislead. But it is also our responsibility as consumers to educate ourselves: Read the labels, ask around and consult our doctors.

1 comment:

  1. People are just funny when they compare the two, but the fact is Ascof and Solmux are not the same. They are not comparable. And one more thing, fluimucil may cause asthma ;)