Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Alternative Therapies vs. Mainstream Medicine

I am not a medical professional. I am an intelligent and well-read woman who has a basic understanding of "how things work", including human bodies, and I grew up in a home where vitamin and herbal supplements were used, with common sense, and I have never taken a "cold cure" in my life, because it was explained to me at a very young age that colds are caused by viruses, something your body has to deal with.

As an adult, especially as a mother, I have taken a great interest in the human body, and its care. I have provided, I hope, and encouraged a healthy lifestyle without becoming a fanatic. I believe very much in balance in all things.

I was a bit ahead of my time, and frequently derided for it, as I avoided antibiotics with my children unless absolutely essential. I used garlic oil for ear infections, which always worked. For example, Tom had his first antibiotic prescription at the age of 20 when he crushed his finger in a log splitter. He has grown up seeing doctors only for his autism, and injuries.

We vaccinated, but carefully. Balance.

For me it goes like this - if a medical issue is potentially life-threatening, or causing discomfort that interferes with the quality of life, then you need to see a doctor. If you have a cold or a clean wound, then you don't, and in between those extremes various decisions are made on a case by case basis.

I have tried White Willow Bark for headaches, and it didn't work. So I stick to Tylenol.

Homeopathy is a scam.

But we swear by Echincea and Vitamin D.

If it works, it works. If it works and there are few side-effects or risks, so much the better, but you still have to go with what works first. If a drug saves your life but makes your skin dry, big deal. If a drug gets the fungus off your toenails, but could kill you, forget it.

In order to make informed decisions you need information. Hearsay, gossip, guesswork, and pseudo-science is no way to learn whether a remedy is safe or efficacious. Reading independent reputable research reports, and plenty of them, is the way to go.

You don't have time? Then leave the decisions to somebody else.

But there's one small and simple fact that should be obvious to everyone.

A remedy cannot be both efficacious and harmless.

If it is taken at the correct dose, and all other precautions are observed (e.g. interactions with other substances) then the harm will be fleeting, minimal, and no big deal. This is what we aim for. Morphine will constipate you horribly, but after surgery you will be bloody miserable without it. Nothing a bit of romaine lettuce can't fix.

But if you were to eat 5 romaine lettuces (i.e. a food, not a drug) you'd get diarrhea you could spray paint a car with. This is simple cause and effect. Everything you ingest has an effect on your body.

The more powerful the effect on your body, the more risk of side-effects, expected or otherwise.

I repeat: A remedy cannot be both efficacious and harmless.

Inert substances will never relieve or cure anything.

So, it is utterly ludicrous to suggest that any treatment, mainstream or otherwise is harmless.

And that, dear friends, is my position in the entire debate.


  1. Great post...I would only add that the mind also is involved. It can turn off you immune system or turn it on. Also prevention is important we can do harm by not doing things like exercise for it effects both our physical and mental parts.Not doing metal items like reading, puzzle solving etc will cause us to lose those abilities. We can also put harmful things into our bodies. IMO it's easy to tell what is the right thing to do or not do, but knowing and doing are not the same thing.

  2. It comes down to this: everything has side effects. More precisely, everything has more than one effect. Some drugs are used because you want what the side effect does. So it is all a trade-off and you need to be informed to make the choice. Sometimes the way to get informed is to do experiments. Try it and see how it goes for you. The body is a complicated system, and in a complicated system you can't do one thing.