Why choose natural medicines?
The term “natural” is a vague term that gets thrown around without much thought. A common reminder of this fact is that arsenic is technically natural.
In this case, natural medicine refers to non-pharmacological interventions and treatments (ie honey instead of dextromethorphan).
There are two reasons why you might want to go down this path. First, some common drug treatments may have side effects or trigger a reaction (read: people with allergies or sensitivities may not tolerate conventional over-the-counter medications well).
As a naturopathic doctor, Megan McBride told Insider that many of her patients come to her “in search of healthy alternatives to the common drugstore options of cold and flu medications, NSAIDs, and antihistamines.” [that are] Available without a prescription.
She noted that the main reason for choosing gentle treatment was fear of the side effects of pharmacological interventions. “The overwhelming number of scientific articles warning against chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, ibuprofen, synthetic antihistamines, and pain relievers appears to be innumerable,” McBride said.
“While these products are not a cure for colds or the flu, natural options may help soothe symptoms of the virus and many people choose them because they are better aligned with their personal health ideologies than conventional medicine,” said pharmacist Maria Gil Flores. .
It’s important to remember that, as with all dietary supplements, statements made about natural remedies, including these recommendations, have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
But even those with FDA approval aren’t without drawbacks and consequences for one’s health: Some common cold and flu medicines can be risky, especially if you get sick a lot and use them all winter.
For example, taking NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen) for a long time can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and damage, kidney damage (kidney failure), and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart-related death. Antihistamines may cause sedation (including fatigue and drowsiness), memory and cognition problems, delirium, increased risk of dementia, and more.
“The people most at risk of adverse effects are the most at risk among us, including young children and the elderly,” McBride added. While these are not the only groups that can consider natural remedies, they will likely notice the ill effects of the medications.
Another reason many people turn to natural medicines: These treatments not only help manage symptoms – they also work to support your overall health and immunity support.
How effective is a natural medicine?
“Natural remedies are generally treatments that work within the body’s natural biological systems and processes,” McBride said. “They are used to support, strengthen and balance the body so that our immune responses to infection are more appropriate and better tolerated for our whole organism.”
The effectiveness of natural medicines is an ongoing and controversial debate. This is because we judge effectiveness by two criteria: peer-reviewed studies and scientific trials, and anecdotal evidence. And we don’t have nearly as many studies or scientific trials that show herbs, vitamins, and other natural remedies to be as unquestionably effective as the drugs we use.
However, there is one important thing to keep in mind: Many of the studies and trials are funded by the pharmaceutical industry itself. These studies are required for a product to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration but are expensive, and many companies often cannot obtain the necessary funding without this kind of industry support. Thus, natural medicines do not always have an equal, and there is not much opportunity to show their strength.
Data framing is also important. For example, while vitamin D may not directly fight the influenza virus, it has been clinically shown to be a critical component of immune function, despite arguments against its efficacy by Western physicians.
McBride noted that the National Institute of Health (NIH) states that number Complementary interventions have been shown to be beneficial for influenza – which is somewhat misleading. “Natural remedies have been shown through research to have effects on the immune system, nervous system, sleep cycles, and more.”
She notes that while these treatments may not have been shown to directly target the influenza virus in clinical trials, they have been shown to support the immune system — which not only helps protect you from infection but can help you recover more quickly if you are. . Already sick and preventing your disease from getting worse.
McBride also noted that the only flu protection option recommended by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC is
, which reduces the risk of getting the flu by 40-60% (which is far from being 100% effective).
Dr. Firuzi takes both a natural (via Ayurveda) and Western medicine approach to treatment, but admits, as noted by the National Institutes of Health, that there is a lack of scientific support for most natural remedies. However, he adds that there is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence supporting these treatments; Many patients continue to use natural supplements, such as herbs and botanical supplements, that (at least) help people feel better.
As always, with anything medical, please consult your medical provider before implementing any medical advice you read online.