Fresh Clips: Good Herbs in a Bad Economy

| February/March 2009

How will herbal products fare in these bad economic times? Health-care spending generally is immune from drastic cutbacks. But as the cost of a trip to the doctor or pharmacy increases, consumers will focus on wellness and disease prevention.

Trusted herbal medicine practitioners in traditional communities may find themselves with more business, and sales of herbs and supplements likely will be positive. Consider the article by Michael Johnson in the June 28, 2008, issue of Drug Store News, “Tough economy drives up OTC [over-the-counter]and supplement sales.”

For various reasons, when the economy tanks, cost- and health-conscious consumers tend to focus on disease prevention. The bottom line is that being sick is expensive.

Focus on wellness and disease prevention might cause consumers to cut out luxury items and buy supplements, particularly those recently mentioned in clinical studies or press reports. People also are more likely to self-medicate with OTC therapies as co-pays increase and drugs that were once prescription-only are approved for sale over the counter.

Cultures with a strong tradition of herbal medicine may return to these customs. For example, an article by Adam Thomson, in the November 28, 2008, issue of The Financial Times Deutchland reports that as fewer Mexican workers in the United States are able to send money home, many Mexican villages are turning to traditional medicines, remedies learned from their grandmothers, and visiting local herbalists.

Experts interviewed in the German article suggest that traditional herbal teas work well for common complaints, but might not be appropriate for more serious illness. Physicians on both sides of the border are concerned that people relying on traditional herbal medicine won’t come to a clinic for medical treatment until it’s too late.

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