Natural remedies - do they actually work? You might have heard something like "I took this natural supplement for a month and didn't notice anything."
This is the sort of statement one sometimes hears from people who expect a natural supplement to act as quickly as prescription drugs to treat a chronic problem. It is helpful to understand that there is a fundamental difference between how the two categories of remedies work. Let's take a look at what the differences are.
First, what is the difference, in general, between the two groups of substances? Natural remedies that you take by mouth (excluding treatments like massage and hydrotherapy) are mainly the relatively-unprocessed (compared to drugs) parts of plants. Examples would be an extract of Echinacea root, commonly used to fight colds or cranberry juice used to treat urinary tract infections. Drugs are isolated, often synthetic compounds separated from any whole plant source they may have originated from.
How Do They Work Differently?
An example of the function of a drug would be the common drug caffeine. Yes, it is a drug! The lethal dose of caffeine is the amount contained in about 30 cups of coffee. If all this caffeine entered your bloodstream in a short time it would kill you. The reason a coffee drinker feels like they have extra energy is not because the caffeine actually produces energy but because the body is revving up the metabolic rate in order to process and dispose of the poison as quickly as possible in order to keep the body alive. You do not get energy from caffeine; you will, in fact, loose energy but the short-term effect is a (false) feeling of increased energy.
For an example of how a natural remedy works, I will refer to
which many readers will be familiar with and which I highly recommend. BarleyLife produces, as its most commonly-reported benefit, (that I have heard) a feeling of increased energy. However, this is not from stimulating the body to increase metabolism to "burn off" a poison. Rather, it does it by naturally supporting the health of the body so that it can return to a more normal state of function. The improvement might come via the detoxifying effect from the high chlorophyll content, general improvements from the high quality of nutrition, better pH balance from its very high alkalinity, reduced free-radical damage because of the high antioxidant potential etc. However, such effects take time to be noticed or related to the true cause (if they are at all) because what is occurring is a fundamental change in the function of the body which takes more time to occur than in the case of the side (or primary) effects of a drug.
Note that this discussion of the difference in how they work (and the whole article) compares the two groups in general. There may be exceptions. I once took a dose of
which would be considered a natural remedy, for a pain in my stomach and received total relief in about 20 seconds.
The Window of Efficacy
For drugs and natural remedies, there is a difference in the size of the range of dosages that is effective. In general, natural remedies have a wide window of efficacy. That is, either side of the optimum dose, there is still a degree of benefit, over quite a wide range of dosages. With drugs, if you are below a threshold concentration in the body they may not work at all; if you are above the optimum dosage they are often (and perhaps dangerously) toxic.
Actually, All Drugs are Toxic to the Body
The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that there are 140,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from prescription drugs. In most cases, the drugs were doctor prescribed and at the proper dosage. Drugs are toxic because they work by causing the body to do something it would not normally do. For instance, a drug prescribed to lower blood pressure might work by causing dilation of the vascular system. However, it would do the same thing in a healthy young person with perfect blood pressure. What the doctor does is try to pick a drug that will exert its unnatural effect on the body in the direction desired to counteract the symptom being treated. It is interesting that symptoms are not due to lack of drugs (except for those related to withdrawal from addiction).
In contrast, the action of a true natural remedy is to support the body to enable it to correct the symptoms itself; it is helpful or supportive rather than toxic.
Then Why Do We Have Drugs?
Man has moved away from natural remedies mainly for reasons of profit. When a drug company can isolate an "active ingredient," patent it and have exclusive marketing rights, there can be considerable profit potential. Drugs, in some situations, may have their place but often only because we are not aware of a natural (and safer) natural treatment. Prescription drug addiction is now the experience of more than 20 percent of American adults that are seeking relief from conditions like anxiety and depression.
Screening programs attempt to identify disease occurrences earlier but often the approach is to prescribe drugs earlier when a change in lifestyle would often take care of the problem. The result is that more and more people are popping pills, the drug companies are making more and more money and the population is getting sicker and more drug-dependent all the time.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications may kill pain more quickly than natural remedies but they may also kill you more quickly. More than 16,500 people die each year and 103,000 are hospitalized for serious complications caused by the pain relievers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil®, and Ibuprofen (according to the National Consumers League).
In our instant society, we want something that works (has the desired effect) right now and with little effort rather than something that works by supporting the real health of the body in the long term. While drugs may provide fast relief, we always pay a health price when we take them. It is much better to look for a natural remedy that will provide the needed nutrients, help remove toxins or otherwise support the body in its self healing. And it requires patience. The disease condition took time to develop; it will take time for your body to properly heal.
Food as Medicine
Hippocrates, the father of medicine made a famous statement:
"Let food by your medicine and medicine be your food."
Food has its "medicinal" effect simply by providing the body with the nutrients it needs to carry out day-to-day functions. You would not worry about overdosing if you were to double your intake of lettuce each day. For most of the foods we eat, if we were to consume a whole meal of just that one food, we would not be concerned about calling the ambulance because we had just consumed the whole thing.
Foods that are understood to be beneficial to the body have their effect over a longer period of time and in more subtle ways than drugs. We are not supposed to have problems like high blood pressure and, in fact, even eating too much of the wrong foods will only raise our blood pressure relatively slowly and over a long period of time.
Just think if every food had the sort of effects that drugs do and with the speed that drugs do. You might have to limit yourself to only 3 strawberries, 3 times a day and any more would cause dizziness and headaches. If you did eat too many you would have to quickly eat a slice of bread (white, with no fiber, is faster acting than whole wheat) so that the active ingredient in that could stop the headache before your head explodes. And don't eat too much of any bread or you'll develop tremors. But if you should have too many slices and start to shake, you could always have a glass of ...
Aren't you glad that food doesn't act like drugs? But there is a problem with much of our modern food. While it does not have the short-term side effects of drugs, much of it does produce long-term, cumulative bad effects. The problems with many of our (especially processed-) food choices are that the foods are either very poor in nutrition or they are carrying a load of toxic chemicals. Then we are short the nutrients we need and have an excess of toxicity to deal with. Perhaps if our foods acted more like drugs we would pay more attention to what we eat.
I would encourage you to look for natural remedies, including eating the right foods to overcome and prevent health problems and even to deal with many types of pain. This website is designed to help you find non-drug solutions to your pain and health problems. While they may be slower-acting, the long-term result can be much better.
Pages on this site that discuss drugs in relation to specific conditions:
- Stomach acid
- Spinal stenosis
Other drug-related pages on my site:
- Tylenol Recall
- Scar Tissue
- Lactic acid Fermentation
It is interesting that Revelation, the last book of the Bible, in describing the downfall of the power it refers to as Babylon, says: "for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." (Rev 18:23) The word translated "sorceries" comes from the Greek word "pharmakeia" from which we get such English words as pharmacy and pharmaceutical.
DISCLAIMER: Please don't take this article as medical advice. It is for the purpose of your information. While you may consult your doctor for his expert diagnostic skills, you should do some research into the different choices of treatment and how they affect your body. You are ultimately responsible for your own health.
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