Natural Vs. Mainstream Treatments

June 19, 2013

Apple and PillsSensational headlines this week are attacking alternative medicine as chicanery. While there are those out there who run fly-by-night online “pharmacies”, or who straight up lie, there are many legitimate supplements, methods (Yoga! Tai Chi! Acupuncture!), and people.

So why all the hate? The lead developer of the rotavirus vaccine (rotavirus is almost entirely a 3rd world problem, but is still part of the US vaccine schedule) has a book about alternative medicine horror stories. Of course, articles promoting the book wouldn’t be interesting if they didn’t play it up in an absolute way, burying the benefits of alternative medicine, as well as the face that mainstream medicine, by percentage, has more misses than hits!

(One expert in defense of natural treatments points out that 1 in 3 are evidence based: there’s studies showing that they are safe, or effective, or both. Only 1 in 4 mainstream treatments can make that claim. Doctors prescribe what they’re told to, not what works necessarily).

Take kava, for instance. Opponents of kava point out that it can cause damage to your liver. Ok, but that only became a problem when mainstream medicine tried to use it—traditional uses, which only use the root and prepare kava with other herbs that mitigate if not fully negate the hepatotoxic aspects. So, misuse by mainstream medicine (and cheap supplements that use unsafe parts of the plant) is projected onto the entire natural industry!

What else? When used as complementary treatments, alongside mainstream ones, many patients experience better outcomes. Just personalizing the level of care patients receive can lower perceived pain and speed healing!

Basically, consumers need to use common sense, due a little research, and be involved with their care. It’s not black and white—some people are pushing sham natural treatments, and some doctors are pushing the wrong medicine (for instance, antibiotics are way over prescribed). Take the best of both worlds—take care of yourself, look carefully at any natural treatment you take, and always talk to your doctor about new or severe illness and injury. There’s also a growing availability of doctors who provide natural treatments within their practice!

What do you think? All natural? All medical? How do you balance?

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