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We need to take care with herbs and natural remedies.

Updated on September 28, 2016
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Reading through various hubs I have noticed, from several comments, recently, that some readers are a little confused about the use and validity of natural remedies.

It is incumbent on each of us not to blindly follow suggested cures or remedies without question or thought, you would not do this in everyday life and there is certainly no reason to do it when it comes to your, or others, health – however re-assuring the advice sounds.

Over many centuries apothecaries, herbalists and pharmaceutical chemists have investigated many remedies, including those that have grown up based on old wives tales and ancient writings. Some were discounted at the time either because they weren’t understood or the active ingredients could not be identified.

I have been involved in both pharmaceutical medicine and natural remedies, including herbs, oils, vitamins and minerals for a very long time now and I far from know everything. Over time I have amassed information on hundreds of natural remedies ranging from those used in ancient civilisations through native products up to modern discoveries of herbs etc. that are leading the way to new more effective cures. However, I have a golden rule insofar that I don’t recommend anything unless I have accredited clinical trials information. If I do mention some uncorroborated remedy then it is with the proviso that it is for information only and requires further investigation and discussion with your doctor or specialist.

Any of us that give guidance or information concerning natural remedies will not have details of the person’s full medical history and even with an accurate diagnosis of the problem you will not know of any other factors in health or lifestyle.

When we are ill we, quite rightly, go to the doctor who will have your full medical history in front of him/her and can ask pertinent questions face to face. Natural remedies come into play when modern medicine cannot offer an acceptable solution or you may just wish to use nature to help you. Don’t be fooled into thinking nature is good and conventional is bad – they both have their place.

I would always advise that the patient talks to their doctor about any natural remedy they want to try in case it will clash with any existing pharmaceutical medication or condition they may be suffering.

We all know the modern world of drugs has its basis in extracts of herbs, flowers, roots, plants and oils. What is not widely appreciated is that these drugs are selective of the perceived active ingredient which is then synthesised. Often the natural buffers present in the original herb etc. are ignored and yet another drug has to be synthesised to counteract the side effects of the first. Modern science is at last starting to look at the whole herb etc. and only removing the adverse part, if one exists.

In my early pharmaceutical days with a large drug company we had a department that specialised in investigating folk medicine and “old wives tales” to see if there was any truth in them. It was really quite illuminating and required a certain amount of lateral thinking. Just as an illustration we looked at an ancient Middle Eastern cure for mumps which entailed taking the patient to pat a donkey. How can this possibly bring about a cure ? Seems impossible yet we knew it worked more often than not. Eventually we borrowed a donkey and a child and using high speed photography filmed the child patting it. What we could see was dust rising from the animals hide and being inhaled by the child. Well to cut a long story short the dust from the hide contained a powerful natural anti-viral which we could synthesise into a workable product.

Another which we never did crack and this was true of many North American Indian cures, was to stop deep inner ear pain. The basis of the cure itself was quite simple and involved the medicine man, who secures the help of the spirit world, including the Great Spirit (Wakan Tanka in the language of the Lakota Sioux), for the benefit of the entire community. He just lit a pipe, burning an unknown substance, and blew the smoke into the ear accompanied by suitable chants. We tried looking at different tobacco types from the area plus other known herbs. We drew blanks with all of these and decided that perhaps the cure was in the breath of the medicine man. They were well known for chewing various herbs but quite honestly the combinations were forbidding. As I said this passed us by or was it Wakan Tanka ??

It was a fascinating period and many cures came from the investigations over the years.

Both ethical pharmaceutical and natural medicine have a place in modern society and are equally powerful. Most doctors are happy to work in conjunction with natural medicines so don’t be reluctant to talk to them about it. However if they are dismissive or extremely anti then perhaps you should be thinking of changing to someone more open minded.

All people such as myself can do is to make you aware of the existence of the natural remedy and it’s known pro’s and con’s, your contribution is to determine if such a remedy fits your medical condition and to do that sometimes requires a face to face consultation with a bona-fide practitioner.

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© 2012 Peter Geekie

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    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Magdelene ,

      Firstly, my sincere apologies for taking to long in replying to your comments. I have no excuse other than I missed the article when preparing my replies.

      I totally agree with you concerning the differences of opinion between certain doctors. Many of these guys wrote their Thetis on a particular subject and then went on to specialise in that area of medicine. The perculiarity of writing a Thetis is that it doesn't have to be right, it only has to show your train of thought. Doctors are not chemists they only administer what the pharmaceutical chemist has told them will help or cure a particular disease or ailment. In the case of natural remedies they should be the complete package, I.e. the person administering them knows all about their chemistry, action and reaction.

      However there are many fake peddlers of remedies around and you need to use all knowledge to check out a product before using it.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Magdelene profile image

      Magdelene 5 years ago from Okotoks

      Great Hub Peter,

      I'm only speaking for myself here and I have to admit, I prefer to use a natural remedy over prescribed medications, but that's just me. Of course when I had to pass a kidney stone I went to a doctor and I was given a couple of different prescriptions that I did take, one such as flowmax (the flowmax prescription was completed because of the purpose it serves). I was also given pain killers as a home prescription but did not end up taking those much, they did not seem to work. The hospital generally tried to flush the stones out by hooking me up to an IV of saline water a couple of times, dripped in rather quickly in the hopes of hydrating the body and flushing the stone out. I did study up on this water flushing system later on and there were some stories that said this practice is not really good for the heart. but hey, at the time, when you are in pain, you're going to say to yes to pretty much anything that stops the pain.

      The problem I tend to have with some doctors is that if you go from one to the other, the difference in their opinions can be very extreme. One will say do not take Staten's, in the end they will do more harm than good, and then another will say take Staten's they will help your heart. One doctor will say take vitamins and another will say, 'Do not take vitamin supplements unless you are pregnant'. One will tell you to take Vitamin D because you are deficient, like many others are deficient; and the other Doctor will tell you, 'Do not take vitamin D, they will aid in the development of kidney stones'.

      Studies have been done on people taking vitamin supplements and others not taking vitamin supplements and according to those studies, the ones taking the supplements had a shorter life span. Supposedly these studies were done over a long period of time but the dosages were out of the norm, extremely high doses, but it all depends on what study you read up on I imagine.

      I find it difficult to have a lot of faith in a system that keeps contradicting itself, from one Doctor to another. This is not to say they are bad doctors, it's just that we all have different beliefs and reasons.

      It's very confusing, especially with all the information, sometimes misinformation, that can be readily found on the internet. Mass confusion, I guess for me it is a matter of finding the right practitioner. I'm overly confused I think.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Lipnancy,

      I agree entirely with your sequence of events. The two sciences are entirely complementary.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Love you article. You are right about using doctors and herbs symbiotically. One good thing about the natural remedies is you are free to try them and discontinue them any time that you want with less side effects. I tend to try the doctor route first, learn what is wrong and then try to cure it (not the symptoms) by natural means.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear ib radmasters,

      We don't really have a single body such as the FDA. Back in the 1960s following the thalidomide crisis the Dunlop Committee was set up to regulate new drugs. This body went through incarnations until Oct 2005 when the Commission on Human Medicines was set up. These days with interference from the EU we are no longer masters of our own destiny and seem to have bodies popping up every day. The worrying factor for me is that new drugs seem to be trialled and approved for use by the drug companies themselves and just rubber- stamped and licensed by some ministry pen pusher. New drugs are no longer created on a need basis but only on how much money they are likely to make. This factor alone makes me very sad as I leave the true world of healing.

      Kind regards Peter

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      Peter

      Is there a Great Britain or Euro equivalent to the FDA in the USA.

      Now in the USA the FDA is just a paper pusher using only the information provided to them by the pharmaceutical companies.

      Since congress gave the FDA the authority to monitor the pharmaceutical companies in the US, there haven't been any cures that I know of for major diseases.

      The lawyers here use the FDA approved drugs as fodder for their lawsuits, as many of these drugs cause more problems than they solve.

      Cheers

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear teaches12345

      Thank you for your kind comments.

      It worried me that people would use natural remedies without thought or question. Used properly they are very powerful but people must take some responsibility for what they put into their body, I, for one, can only guide and advise.

      This is also a market open to cheats and charletons preying on those at their lowest ebb, offering remedies for anything containing flour to brick dust all wrapped up in capsules and attractive boxes. Try to use only known bona-fide manufacturers and if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is !

      Kind regards Peter

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Wise words to share on the risk of taking natural remedies without checking to see if it is good for your body. Keeping in tune with your doctor and taking small steps are best. Fascinating share on the mumps story.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thank you Kate

      I have enjoyed my working life and my only regret is that time is becoming short to pass on some of my knowledge.

      Kind regards peter

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      This hub is just great Peter.I read it twice I found it so interesting.I particularly liked the story of the donkey.You obviously have a wealth of experience in this area.Voted it useful and interesting and posted it to facebook.Thanks for sharing your knowledge here.

      Regards,Kate