With a background in orthodox medicine, holistic alternatives and cosmetic formulating, I can tell you that ‘natural doesn’t always mean better for you’. In this three part series I am going to give you several examples that include medicine, haircare, and skincare and I’ll be exposing some of the products that are classed as ‘natural’ that might be doing you harm. This article is about medicine and natural health alternatives, specifically herbalism.
Disclaimer: Some of the items discussed in this article are condition specific and others will affect everyone. It is up to you to decide what is best for you and what information you choose to follow from this article.
Part 1 MEDICINE
It’s fair to say a lot of people are loosing faith in Allopathic (modern) medicine. The huge list of side affects that most medicines carry now seems endless and the rare circumstance of people having adverse reaction; has defiantly not worked in it’s favour. It is important to note that ‘natural’ alternatives such as herbalism are not without their side effects or reaction rates. The huge difference between allopathic and traditional medicine is that one is regulated and one is not. This means that all those scary side effects and affection rates you see in those little packets of tablets, are there as a legal requirement.
If herbal medicine had to follow the same legalities you can be sure that the lists would look quite similar. It’s easy to ignore this fact when we’re not presented with the information.
An example I want to share with you involves an herb that I keep in my own apothecary. Raspberry Leaf Rubus idaeus. Raspberry leaf is an herb that has some great beneficial qualities. However, it can also be very dangerous when consumed in large quantities or taken at the wrong time, in the wrong conditions.
Although many women will use raspberry leaf during pregnancy for it’s usefulness during labour, it is an abortive. It SHOULD NOT be used in the first two trimesters or risk abortion. It is a known laxative and diuretic meaning overuse can quickly lead to dehydration. Estrogen found in raspberry leaf, can also worsen some health conditions. Regularly, it has been suggested that it should not be used by those with diabetes. Benzodiazepine compounds in raspberry leaf can make you feel sleepy and lethargic. This may be great if you need a sleeping aid but inevitably dangerous if you need to be alert and responsive.
NATURAL Health Based Remedies have SIDE EFFECTS. Ironically, IT’S JUST NOT PUT ON A LABEL AND ADVERTISED.
If raspberry leaf had a side effect list it would look something like this:
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
- Skin rash
- Dramatic changes (increase/decrease) in blood pressure
- Abdominal Pain
- Respiratory Difficulties
- Excessive Weight Loss
- Might affect menstruation speak to your doctor if your periods stop or become irregular
- Could affect fertility
- Not suitable for hormone sensitive patients including diabetes.
- May react with certain medications talk to your physician before taking.
- Estrogen can worsen some underlying health conditions
- Go to hospital immediately upon overdosing can be fatal
- This medication may make you feel sleepy or lethargic do not drive or use heavy machinary.
- Allergic reactions are common.
It’s important to note:
- Old historical nature-based treatments that were once used as priority medicine, may have been disproved as helpful and even harmful through modern science today.
- It is almost impossible to dispense a set amount of ‘natural’ plant medicine, (unless it has been genetically engineered in a laboratory). This is due to the varying quantities of compounds in each individual plant. This means it is easy to overdose. You might find this post useful ‘Can you take too much herbal medicine’
- Natural health scams. Cancer fighting ingredients and plant compounds exist but they should NEVER be a replacement for nor advertised to be better than clinical cancer treatments. Anyone who tells you that their product kills or cures cancer, or will cure any other ailment is a HUGE red flag. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
- Herbal medications can react with food and other medications just like modern medicine. It can cause allergic reactions, block out the absorptions of vitamins and minerals from food and prevent other medications working altogether. St John’s wort is a prime example. If you take St John’s wort with any kind of anti-depressant or mental health medication it will render it useless and even harmful. If you have been prescribed psychiatric medication it is just not worth the risk to combine it with most herbs. For a scientific study relating to this see Health risks of herbal remedies – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Natural alternatives like herbal medicine, can be a wonderful addition to your lifestyle when used CAREFULLY. Many herbs are highly nutritious but my advice would be use them holistically as a ‘preventative’ just as food can be healing. Modern medicine is there to target acute illness and disease, often in times of critical emergency. It’s not perfect but it has been backed by more scientific research proven over time, to be most effective in these circumstances and to warrant the use of treatment. Natural isn’t always better for you, but it has it’s uses in preventative care.
NOTE: If you have any concerns about which type of medicine is for you or you would like to switch from orthodox medicine to more nature-based remedies, you should talk to your physician. Psychiatric medications in particular will require a cutting down period and your doctor will be able to advise. Many medical professionals have a much better understanding of holistic alternatives now.