FACT or FICTION : Tackling common myths about herbal medicine


Botanical medicine and therapeutic herbs are a growing alternative in a increasing costly and quite frankly greedy pharmaceutical market and industry. The first rule to herbal and natural medicine is to understand their power and limitations. Let’s tackle some common myths and misconceptions 

All Medicinal plants and herbs are safe 

Are they??? Digitalis, tobacco, belladonna are examples of natural herbs with toxic or poisonous effects . There are probably as many poisonous herbs as there are therapeutic. Some therapeutic plants can be toxic when used excessively or for prolonged periods. Here’s a little fact pharmacies and doctors  once primarily used natural agents for treatments for common ailments. However, many of these medications proved to be toxic and poorly tolerated , which led to the manufacturing of medications that were better tolerated.

Dietary supplements are all natural

Guess what God didn’t make pills or capsules , neither did the trees, plants or evolution. There is a process to take a specific component of a plant and convert it into a digestible tablet or capsule. Here is some homework; read the ingredients of a natural supplement you have at home. Do you recognize everything you are reading? do they all sound natural?. It is quite common for artificial coloring, preservatives and even artificial flavoring to be added to your natural supplement. 

Natural Medications can Cure

Sorry, hate to be the bearer of bad news once again , but the curable herb is a bit of a myth. Historically speaking traditional natural medications or plants were used to treat the symptoms ( manifestations ) of the disease , not necessarily the disease itself. Natural herbs have been used by traditional healers to help with cough, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rash , fever etc. This was to curve symptoms while innate healing ( body healing itself ) took place. In fact , traditionally speaking , natural herbs were better used for acute , infectious conditions , not chronic disease that many of us suffer with today.

Natural herbs are universal 
Ok what I’m about to say may seem controversial to some , but its the TRUTH. I love the commercials that try to convince everyone that some exotic herb from far Asia will fix all American problems . Not all herbs are for everyone , everywhere, all the time. Here is a good example, 
St Johns Wart , is a common natural supplement for depression. It originates from cooler climates in Europe . When it was introduced to South Africa , it actually caused acute illness in animals who would eat at the plant  and had a negative affect on native flora of Southern Africa  . WHY?? Something called photosensitivity. The plant is associated with photosensitivity , meaning can be toxic for those in higher amounts of sun exposure. Meaning this European plant may not be optimal for people in sub Saharan Africa. There are lots of cases like this. Unfortunately, European and Asian Medicine gets promoted more than African and Indigenous plants due to, you guessed it colonization and some supremacy issues. That’s a topic for another day . But remember this the next time you see a commercial for diet pill from for east Asia .

Natural Medicine and Herbs is better than modern medicine 
If you suffered bad trauma from a terrible car accident and required surgery, would you choose supplements over life sustaining surgery. There are times when severity of disease means that choosing modern medicine may be the better option . This is not just the case with accidents or trauma, cancer and HIV are examples of diseases where you should strongly consider treatment with medicines proven to be effective. Natural , holistic measures are preferred.

So now that I’ve been the bad news bear of this blog, how can herbal medicine help. They are part of a tool-kit, but not the only part. They can be used to address deficiencies and imbalances. ( lesson #2) But other parts of healing including rest, spirituality, family support, exercise , must be included. I hope this was helpful 

Health Empowerment for African Americans and Latinos Dr Isable MD,MPH


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