A nice reminder from Ape, Not Monkey of something we rarely consider. Many alternative ad folk remedies make use of plant and animal parts which, in addition to being of questionable safety and efficacy, may come from endangered plant or animal species. Ben Radford at Live Science has several examples, including the odd fact that the introduction of viagra to Kenya may have reduced poaching of rhino horn there. The World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and a number of other conservation organizations have also addressed this problem in their advocacy efforts.
While this issue is not my central objection to unproven alternative therapies, it is yet another reaon why the widespread use of unvalidated traditional remedies should be discouraged. Even with government oversight and the necessary efforts of advocacy groups, it is difficult enough to control the mainstream pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to exploit the possible medicinal value of natural plant and animal substances. The unregulated CAM industry, which seems to be automatically assumed to be “green” and more environmentally friendly than scientific medicine, is likely to be as great or greater a threat to endangered plant and animal species if no effort is made to ensure that only renewable and sustainable sources of raw materials are used. It is especially tragic to lose forever animal or plant species due to their exploitation for likely ineffective folk remedies.