Tripoli Ex-gymnastics instructor Mohammad Abadeen is now in charge of a small apothecary in northern Lebanon. Drug shortages and price increases have frustrated his customers.

Colds, coughs, and stomach viruses are all treated using alternative or herbal medicine, which makes use of herbs, spices, and natural oils.

In Tripoli, Abadeen is a well-known apothecary, and the demand for his products is sky-high.

A 53-year-old said, “When prices went up, people turned to alternative treatment.”

The value of the Lebanese currency has fallen by 90% since 2019 and the cost of medicine has doubled, according to an Amnesty International report from 2021.

In September, the UN issued a dire warning: 33% of Lebanese households lack the financial means to pay for healthcare. For more than half of them, medication was either out of reach or too expensive.

Weeks later, the cash-strapped government of Lebanon stopped subsidies on the majority of pharmaceuticals, causing costs to soar.

Tripoli was already the poorest city in the Mediterranean before the financial crisis struck.

Zoubai, a natural plant that resembles thyme, is prescribed by Abadeen because his customers are “exhausted” from taking medications, blood tests, and checkups. 

He claims that people are even relying on plant-based remedies for serious ailments.

According to Rafie, “Diabetes medications cost 1 million Lebanese pounds,” which is over twice the minimum monthly wage of 600,000 pounds.

According to the herbalist, a single herb may fetch up to £50,000 in the market.

Firas al-Abiad, the caretaker health minister, warned cancer patients about the dangers of using herbal medicines.

“Concerning. In fact, many people don’t understand that this isn’t an alternative ” commented the Reuters news agency.

Herbal remedies aren’t subjected to the same rigorous testing as pharmaceuticals for efficacy and side effects.

Abiad said that widespread abuse of plant-based treatments is made possible by the absence in Lebanon of a central laboratory for the analysis and regulation of “unchecked substances.”

The president of Lebanon’s pharmaceuticals syndicate, Joe Salloum, has indicated that herbal combinations can provide relief, but that unregulated amounts can be harmful.

“Is it a high-risk endeavor? Because of its potency and how it’s concentrated or encapsulated, it can pose a risk “Salloum, please.

As a Tripoli pharmacist, Omar al-Ali has noticed a rise in the demand for plant-based remedies, which he attributes to the fact that many of his customers cannot afford a full box of drugs.

As a result of skyrocketing drug costs, Ali says that the number of people who are turning to online pharmacies has grown significantly.

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