Natural Vs. Traditional Medicine
Where Do You Stand?
I have this theory that before the end of days, when all options have been exhausted, we will discover that everything beneficial to our physical well-being will come directly from the earth, if only though ample research, an open mind, and possibly a little bit of luck and manipulation. That is not to say I am denouncing medical science, and its brilliant advances. I’m also not going to use this opportunity to discuss “big pharma” and its evil politically-driven brethren of greed (although I agree it exists).
The reason for this is? The next time I feel as though I am getting a cold, I will probably take a ton of vitamin C and essential plant based herbs, and chances are, with a little extra rest, it will do the trick. However, sometimes it will seem to not work fast enough for me to return to my normal daily activities. I will get impatient with the fact that I still have a sore throat, cough (or related ailment), visit my doctor who will gladly provide me with a convenient antibiotic prescription, which I will start taking either that night or the very next morning. The antibiotics will make my stomach feel awful, but within a week or two, I’ll be feeling much better, and any trace of my cold will most likely be gone. Was my return to good health due to the supplements and herbs or the result of the antibiotics – or both? Since I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, I cannot grace that question with a reliably factual response. (Actually, I don’t know if many doctors can either, since, when I’ve asked them, I usually receive a response along the lines of, “well, the vitamins can’t hurt, but nothing’s been scientifically proven, so take the medicine, but if the natural stuff works for you, then by all means, go ahead with that too” Ok thanks, I will!)
There are many who are extremely well-versed in the concept of homeopathy. Others swear it is voodoo. Although I believe in the power of natural healing, I am also thankful that if my daughter wakes up in the middle of the night with a high fever, I have medicine in my cabinet that will bring it right down within 30-40 minutes. Is there a safe, natural, proven-effective alternative to the fever-reducing medications we purchase at the drug store? Quite possibly! Do I know of one? No, unfortunately I do not.
However, despite my confusion and some contradictory behavior, I still stand behind my theory that our inevitable cures already occur in nature, whether or not we are even aware of their existence. I draw a somewhat awkward comparison to Dorothy in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” when the good witch told her she had the power to go home all along, but she just didn’t know it (only in this case, of course it is not shoes). With that, I will share a few nuggets of information that I have learned over the past couple of years which I’ve found particularly interesting -- barely the tip of the iceberg of course, but food for thought none-the-less.
Revisiting the topic of cold viruses, let’s begin by talking about elderberry (aka: Sambucus Nigra). Several studies have shown that the juice from cooked elderberries contain certain proteins and bioflavonoids capable of treating cold and flu viruses. A “randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections” reported that when sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) who were suffering influenza-like symptoms (during a flu-season) for 48 hours or less were administered 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for five days, their “symptoms were relieved on average, four days earlier, and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo”.
The same study also stated, “Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza”. Other reported elderberry benefits are reduction of cholesterol, improvement of vision, heart health, as well as immunity.
We’ve all heard of it – we’ve all tasted it. Earlier in the decade, studies were released and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Show revealing that ginger (aka: zingiber officinale), taken in larger quantities, could be used to effectively treat ovarian cancer. Here is a quote from one such study: “Ginger inhibits growth and modulates secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. The use of dietary agents such as ginger may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.”
It seems the same holds true for ginger and prostate cancer. An American study, published in The British Journal of Nutrition, stated that ginger extract was shown to actually kill human prostate cancer cells, while leaving healthy prostate cells alone. What else is great about this? Ginger has no known toxicity when taken in high quantities. (Note that for best potency, ginger should be in its raw and uncooked form. It is not as effective if taken, for example, as a tea.)
Also, WebMD reported (yes, WebMD, not exactly known for their alternative stance on medicine) the following regarding a promising study published in Cancer Prevention Research “[It] is an early step toward finding out whether compounds found in ginger root might prevent colon cancer. ‘Many studies in cell culture have shown that ginger is an anti-inflammatory,’ says study researcher Suzanna M. Zick, ND, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor.” She continued, “The ginger was able to decrease the level of inflammatory markers in the gut tissue compared to the placebo. It decreases inflammation. We know that increased inflammation, chronic inflammation in the gut tissue is highly associated with developing precancerous lesions, or cancerous polyps." This study was actually funded (in part) by the National Cancer Institute.
The “sunshine vitamin”, also recognized for its anti-cancer properties, namely breast cancer. This one is also recognized by The National Cancer Institute. A team of researchers, led by Prof. Cedric F. Garland of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, published their recent findings in the journal Anticancer Research. Prof. Garland stated the following: "As long as vitamin D receptors are present, tumor growth is prevented and kept from expanding its blood supply," It’s pretty easy to obtain too: sunlight, milk, even a supplement. (Note that vitamin D3 is considered more effective in humans than D2.) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advised that the use of vitamin D is essential for the "formation, growth, and repair of bones and for normal calcium absorption and immune function". Other random studies have shown vitamin D to also be beneficial for reducing risk of multiple sclerosis, asthma symptoms and frequency, rheumatoid arthritis, radiation damage, tuberculosis recovery, and heart attack, while also helping to maintain cognitive brain functions later in life.
What Is The Problem?
So you might ask, “What is the problem here? Why is this information not being consistently shouted from the roof-tops – or at least the six-o’clock news on a daily basis?” It could be because many of these studies, while showing great evidence and promise of advancement in the control and prevention of illnesses, are still considered preliminary because they may not have been as thoroughly and rigorously performed (or funded) as the studies done on the actual drugs we know are used to treat the same diseases.
Why not? Well there are many theories, and you may even have one of your own. Some believe the world of natural remedies is basically nonsensical, and therefore not worth the time or money; while others argue that homeopathy, while legitimate, does not command the same revenue as pharmaceutical therapies, therefore their studies are less apt to receive an equal amount of funding. I suppose it’s a question of "cause and effect". So, although the studies that were performed on “natural cures” may have actually and accurately proven what they set out to prove, the more extensive research that would have set them forth in a more mainstream manner were quite possibly skipped. I suppose we can do our own on math on the reasons why; again, maybe… funding? Are you sensing a pattern here?
All of this takes me back to my original example of antibiotics. Maybe it’s possible that the line dividing these two concepts is not as definitive as we think. In 1928, before the common talk of drug company controversies, a scientist/bacteriologist named Alexander Fleming discovered (unintentionally) how a certain type of naturally occurring mold was capable of killing several types of bacteria. The mold was found to be non-toxic, and by 1940, penicillin (as it was later called) was being used to treat the wounds and infections of injured soldiers in WWII. These days, it’s easy to take the idea of antibiotics for granted; forgetting how such a commonly used pharmaceutical drug actually did start out as what could technically be classified as a “natural cure”.
Whether you believe the advances of modern medicine have prolonged our lives while treating and protecting against debilitating disease, or rather have created human dependencies on unhealthy chemicals and corporations, one notion can be observed. If the brilliant minds which are capable of concocting traditional medicinal therapies are also able to apply their wisdom in the context of the natural homeopathic world, imagine what outstanding and amazing strides in medical science remain to be seen. I think Alexander Fleming would agree.