Iman Ismail used Lebanese herbal medicines to treat her 7-year-old son’s mild arthritis, after a visit to a doctor in her neighborhood cost her 500,000 Lebanese pounds (18.5 US dollars) and spent 2 millions of additional pounds in prescription drugs.
“I didn’t expect drug prices to rise so much,” Iman, a part-time tailor from the southern town of Nabatieh, told Xinhua.
As fees for a rheumatologist have skyrocketed, the best alternative she could find to help her son now is herbal medicine, according to Ismail.
A mainstream clinic in Nabatieh recommended a few types of herbs to reduce her child’s symptoms in about a month, giving her a window to save money for future expenses at a more specialized clinic.
“It surely helps my son until I find a way to pay for the medication prescribed by his rheumatologist if his symptoms get worse,” Iman said.
Jamila Halawani, whose 5-year-old son cannot get enough sleep due to severe cough and phlegm, visited a well-known herbal clinic in al-Rafid, a town in southern Bekaa Governorate, and was prescribed three doses of green tea a day and one dose of ginger mixed with lemon juice.
“This mixture luckily helped relieve my child’s cough, which saved me the cost of a doctor’s visit and medicine,” Halawani told Xinhua.
Up to 80% of Lebanese paid in the Lebanese pound, which was collapsing due to a shortage of foreign exchange reserves, leading to a dire financial situation for most citizens.
Doctors’ fees doubled and drug prices rose exponentially after the Central Bank of Lebanon lifted most drug subsidies in November 2021 due to a broader cash-strapped situation.
The financial crisis also plunged the National Social Security Fund into a large deficit, forcing it to stop its health coverage for citizens, including hospitalization and medicine bills.
Jamal Abu Daoud, a public health specialist, confirmed to Xinhua that the number of patients at his clinic dropped remarkably as patients became unable to guarantee the cost of examinations, medicines, lab tests and medical supplies. x-rays.
“Some patients can’t even come to my clinic because transportation costs have increased dramatically,” he said.
On the contrary, Mansour Qaddoura, an herbalist from the town of al-Bireh in eastern Lebanon, seemed to be doing well, his practice being overcrowded with patients suffering from different health problems.
“Our treatments focus on herbs including but not limited to garlic, parsley, ginger, purslane, green tea, thyme, potato, chamomile, blackberry, pomegranate rind and pumpkin,” he said, adding that herbal prices had increased by 20% but were still cheaper than traditional medicines.
Jacques Choucair, head of the infectious diseases department at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut, told Xinhua that alternative medicine is a broad term that can include acupuncture, herbal medicine and other forms of treatment.
“I am in favor of acupuncture which helps relieve pain and treat inflammation in addition to herbal medicine because half of our medicines are herbal,” he said, noting that herbalists should know the exact dosage. ■