A while back I was prescribed an anti-depressant. The doctor said he didn't know if it would work for me. He said it wasn't even well understood *how* it worked.
You had a bad and uninformed doctor. A good doctor should have at least a general idea of how the medication works, and he certainly shouldn't be prescribing drugs without knowing if they'd work or how!
That confused me because presumably whatever was in the pill was added for a reason, but clearly there's a lot of trial and error. And clearly there are extremely nasty side effects from many drugs.
So many pharmaceuticals' effectiveness may be overrated, as may be their safety. I'm not sure some medicinal plants are necessarily less effective or less safe.
Presumably chemicals in our drugs are often extracted from nature. why wouldn't the same chemicals in their natural form have the same potential to work? For example, willow bark has salicin (from whence aspirin came), and has been used medicinally since the time of Hippocrates.
There may be side effects from pharmaceutical drugs, but they are well understood as a result of the extensive testing they are required to go through, and a lot of effort is made to minimize those side effects. Medicinal plants have the same range of side effects. The difference is herbal medicine doesn't go through scientific testing, it's side effects are not required to be labeled and are not as well understood. Drugs that are isolated from medicinal herbs will typically try to isolate the active ingredient, reducing the chances of side effects from other plant ingredients that may have unwanted pharmacological properties and refining the dosage to the minimum necessary.
The idea of treating the whole person instead of just the symptom is a growing concern in western medicine. This has always been the defining characteristic of homeopathy's holistic approach.
So many homeopathic treatments are almost certainly bunk, but throwing out all homeopathy may be short sighted, just as throwing out all of western medicine would be.
The defining characteristic of homeopathy is the "like cures like" approach, with medicine prepared from repeated dilution. This has been repeatedly proven to be bunk and without merit. If the core fundamentals of their medical approach is false, having been consistently disproven, why shouldn't the whole field be throw out as discredited and without merit?