Why is there such an interest in natural/herbal medicines as opposed to the more traditional forms of medicines?

Ask almost anyone today what they think about herbal medicine and you’ll most likely get a response saying how it’s unscientific, primitive, unproved, ineffective, possibly dangerous and how it really doesn’t have a place in our modern day and age.

However, after having studied herbs for some time, I can tell you with authority that there is another side of the story to these commonly accepted beliefs about herbs.

The most commonly accepted fallacy is that using herbs is really a primitive form of medicine. But what would you say if I told you that in 1965; over 130 million prescription drugs were written which came from plants? Or if I told you that over 75% of the hormones used in medicine today are derived completely from plants?

It hardly does justice to herbs to call them primitive and backward, and at the same time, to label drugs as advanced and modern, when so many drugs are in fact derived from herbs.

For example, everyone has heard of digitalis which is a drug used to stimulate the heart. Well, digitalis comes from an herb called foxglove. Another example is the effective anti-clotting agent called coumarol. That too comes from an herb–sweet clover.

Another one is reserpine, which is one of the most popular tranquilizers. It comes from an herb named snakeroot. They used snakeroot for thousands of years in India to calm people down.

Still another example is quinine. Quinine is very efficient in reducing fever, especially malarial fever. This drug comes from the Peruvian bark in South America.

After knowing all this, how can anybody label herbal medicine as “primitive” when herbs were used so effectively for thousands of years? Foxglove for the heart, sweet clover for anti-clotting, Peruvian bark for fevers, snakeroot for tranquilizers. The list is endless.

But there’s more. All drugs which are extracted out of plants are not in a whole natural state. This is the reason there are so many side effects, which is a medical problem in itself. I’m sure your readers are fairly well versed with some of the side effects which are caused by drugs so I don’t have to go into it. On the other hand, the herbs I use are completely safe, and do not have side effects because they are in a natural state.

You can take all the Peruvian bark tea you want and you won’t have any problems. But take a little too much of the quinine extracted from the Peruvian bark and you will grow deaf. Take a still larger dose and you will die.

Another example is white willow bark. White willow bark contains a natural precursor to aspirin. Take a quart of it and you won’t have any problems. But take a bottle of aspirin and you might never wake up again.

Now, don’t misunderstand me and think there are no toxic plants. There are. But herbalists know about these plants and stay away from them. Once in a while you may hear a story about someone venturing out into the woods, picking an unidentified plant, chewing it and then getting very ill. This is bound to happen when somebody is not an authority on plants, but it’s certainly no reason to condemn the whole field of herbal medicine because of it. The same thing would happen if someone went into a drug store blind-folded, and took a few pills of whatever was on the shelf.

It appears that herbs are effective in building a healthy body and alleviating disease. As time goes on, more and more people are going to wake up to the fact that herbs really are the way of the future.    No matter what disease you have, there is an herb growing somewhere which can get you well.

When the Lord said in the Bible, “…and the fruit thereof shall be for meat and the leaf thereof for medicine”, He meant you should only use herbs and plants to treat your ailments. I hope you follow that advice, because I doubt you’ll ever regret it. I wish you the best of health.

Natural Medicine focuses on treating the mind, body and emotions through natural remedies that utilize herbs, diet and vitamin intake. Natural medicine focuses on healing the source of an illness, balancing the systems of the body to remedy illness and imbalance and maintain energy and vitality on an everyday basis.

Traditional Medicine focuses on repairing the body, once it has broken down. Traditional medicine often utilizes drugs that may be effective in treating illness but often at the expense of the overall health of the body. Many drugs come with serious side effects that create intense pressure on the body, breaking down immunity and adding strain to the organs.

I’m not saying that traditional medicine is bad or ineffective. I’m only saying that many issues and health problems can be avoided or balanced in a much gentler and healthier way that can actually improve the overall health of the body, instead of depleting it.

Natural medicine can also remedy areas that traditional medicine can’t, such as improving energy, clarity and mental focus. Prevention against cancer, boosting immunity, cleansing toxicity and toning the organs and reproductive system.

Natural Medicine can also provide natural remedies for general health concerns such as quitting smoking, weight loss, hair loss prevention, balancing menstrual problems, depression and anxiety. Traditional medicine also provides solutions to these problems, but often the drugs prescribed have very serious side effects.

The Pros of Natural Medicine – (a) Provides prevention to problems before they begin; (b) No nasty side effects; (c) Gives energy and health to the body while treating an illness or imbalance; (d) Provides solutions to problems traditional medicine can’t; and (e) Heals the root of the problem, not just symptoms. This makes sure the affliction goes away and that the body is returned to balance.

Cons –   (a) Can’t provide surgery; and (b) In very serious cases, it may have limitations.

Pros of Traditional Medicine – (a)   Effective solution for treating an illness; (b) Useful for any surgical procedure; and (c) Effective way of diagnosing a problem through tests like x rays and blood tests.

Cons – (a) Drugs prescribed have serious and dangerous side effects; (b) Drug prescribed tend to build up more toxicity, affecting overall health, lowering immunity and often causing fatigue or weight problems; (c) Surgery can occasionally be avoided by using a natural remedy; (d) Often treats a symptom instead of the cause, so the problem is always repeating; and (e) Drugs prescribed can often cure a problem by creating another problem instead of balancing the whole. This is the case with antibiotics where the entire immune system is wiped out, in order to treat a virus or infection. Grapefruit Seed Extract will also kill an infection, but build up immunity as it does.

Naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine are both valuable systems that excel at different aspects of patient care. Conventional medicine is crucial in most emergency situations. Naturopathic medicine is the best approach to prevention, because it involves a wellness-oriented diet, lifestyle change and supplements that support the body. Naturopathic medicine is often also the best first step in dealing with chronic illnesses, such as arthritis or eczema, because these conditions improve when diet, lifestyle and nutrient deficiencies are addressed. Additionally, naturopathic medicine is a great choice for non-emergency acute illnesses, such as colds and flus, because naturopathic medicine modalities effectively support the body’s immune system.

For most diseases, conventional medicine treats symptoms alone, usually with drugs or surgery. While sometimes necessary, this can lead to long-term management with an improvement in symptoms at the cost of side effects, which often require more drugs. Naturopathic medicine, on the other hand, attempts to treat the root cause of the health issue so that the body can ultimately heal itself. The results can be measured as a reduction or elimination of drugs, improved vitality and/or a complete reversal of disease.

Naturopathic medicine does not abandon the conventional medical model. Many aspects of the conventional approach to medicine are not only beneficial but also essential for the practice of naturopathic medicine. For example, naturopathic doctors are trained in conventional medical sciences and routinely order conventional labs and scans alongside alternative medicine tests (like nutrient blood tests and food sensitivity panels) to help establish appropriate diagnosis of disease conditions and monitor treatment progress. Naturopathic doctors are also trained in pharmacology, and if necessary, can write a prescription for pharmaceutical medications. NDs also refer out to medical specialists for further work-up or when there is a need for acute care stabilization in a health crisis.

Naturopathic medicine is unique in certain respects: (1) The relationship between a naturopathic doctor and his or her patient is a partnership. What this means is that naturopathic doctors spend a significant amount of time with their patients. They listen closely to gain a full understanding of all aspects of the patient’s health problem. They then explain both the disease process and the treatment approach so the patient understands why each treatment recommendation is important and can be an empowered and active participant in incorporating the changes that will lead to improved health; (2) NDs strive to find and treat the root cause of the disease, treat the whole person, and choose treatments that are not harmful and will engage the body’s own self-healing abilities; and (3) NDs work with a large toolkit of evidence-based, effective and safe natural therapies: herbs, vitamins and minerals, homeopathic remedies, bioidentical hormones, nutritional IVs and other natural therapies – to restore health.

Naturopathic doctors can serve as your primary care doctor or in conjunction with your medical doctor, osteopathic doctor, acupuncturist or chiropractor. A naturopathic doctor can be of help and offer expertise, whether you are seeking insight about your general wellness or you are already chronically ill. Talk to a naturopathic doctor to find out how naturopathic medicine treatments can help you.

Kathy Kiefer

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