A Deeper Look into Natural Health + Alternative Medicine

A Deeper Look Into Natural + Alternative Medicine

A Deeper Look at Our Health

I didn’t much believe in homeopathic medicine until I met my mother-in-law, Lauren. She was very knowledgeable about Alternative Medicine, Homeopathy, Eastern Medicine, Organics, GMO’s, and pretty much anything to do with natural healing and well-being. She also had cancer for over a decade, in and out of remission and it eventually took her life in 2011. She was incredibly smart and spent a great deal of time researching these fields and in turn became somewhat of an expert in my eyes.

She never took anything at face-value and always studied each issue very carefully before believing what she read or heard and before sharing that knowledge.  She taught me many new things in this realm and opened my eyes to how we approach our health and wellness in America. I was only 17 when I met her, so my views and opinions on these subjects were still newly forming as I matured – I think that I met her at the perfect time for what I believe helped shape who I am now and strengthen my belief system (at that point it had suffered tremendously) – I am forever grateful.

Why is that we think modern medicine, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies are the only ones with the answers to maintaining and improving our health and wellness?

Why should we trust them over natural remedies and cures that have worked for our ancestors for thousands of years? I believe that God gave us this magnificent life and planet as well as providing us with incredible medicine to heal and stay well. I absolutely am not saying that modern medicine isn’t an amazing field and I am not saying that we’d be better without it. A plant cannot perform surgery, test for disease and infection, or help people in countless ways. I am saying that it isn’t always effective, that it can be combined with natural or alternative medicine, and that it can be dangerous and harm the body.

It shouldn’t have to be one or the other.

I’d also like to point out that the intentions of the medical community, to include doctors and nurses and many scientists working hard to find cures, are admirable and heroic. I have also had my eyes opened to this fact more than ever in the past year, since our son was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure. You can read more on that in future posts, tagged DCM or Cardiomyopathy.

Old Ways

I used to scoff at the idea of taking herbs to fix the terrible menstrual cramps I had since 15 and using essential oils to help relieve migraines I had since I was 12. The medicines that I had been given over the first few years had been given to me even though they were created for an entirely different condition and the relief they provided was only a side effect of that treatment. So I’m taking medication meant for depression, heavy pain killers, and too-new-too-little-tested migraine meds all at 15 years old. Taking three major medications not intended to treat the migraines, back spasms from scoliosis, and severe menstrual cramps but they just happen to help those conditions. Now, I see that this can’t have been good for my maturing body but back then nobody questioned it, we just did as our doctor told and if it wasn’t working they’d just change up the medications or the dose and hope for the best. It absolutely wasn’t good for my body or my mind – don’t get me wrong, Vicodin and Percocet absolutely take pain away and are incredible for people in severe pain…sort of but that’s another post for another day.

It wasn’t until I was 17 and learning from Lauren about so many other ways to treat what I was experiencing without needing to take pills all day and everyday. First, she found medicine for my cramps – a natural medicine full of herbs, vitamins, and minerals. She’d researched about how the female body reacts during our cycles and what it needs to be regular and less painful. I wearily took it the first time I had cramps again and it didn’t do much that day, with that first dose, so I quit and went back to my original methods. Had I stuck with it initially, I would have seen the results I sought. I know this because I gave it a second chance much later and it did help significantly.

The thing about natural medicine, is that it can be incredibly powerful but it also might take the body a bit longer to respond to natural treatment. It’s not a manufactured chemical that is designed to work within the first treatment but it is designed to work. It does however have a major benefit that pharmaceuticals don’t – those pesky side effects – keep reading…

Germany’s Approach

When I later moved to Germany with my husband, I got pregnant after many years of infertility and I was seen regularly by an Obstetrician in our local community off-post. I was once again given another eye-opening experience to learn from. In Germany and much of Europe, the treatment plan is surprisingly different from what we experience in the United States. I was put on magnesium, herbal teas, and vitamins during my pregnancy – which was high risk. In the hospital, while giving birth, much of my treatment was in herbal teas and salves. I was sent home with a box of Weleda tea (with fenugreek) for nursing and milk production – it worked amazingly well btw.

I had my second child in North Carolina, I was given lots of pharmaceuticals to treat ongoing issues throughout the pregnancy, like Zofran for severe nausea and others for pain and migraine. It was never recommended that I drink teas, use herbs, or take specific minerals/vitamins other than typical prenatal vitamins. My hospital aftercare consisted of  them giving me a bottle of ibuprofen 800’s and instruction to rest (yeah right, the baby doesn’t let you rest). On my own, I went with many of the treatments that my German OB directed for me with my first child and they worked wonders. This was before I had really become involved with essential oils, in fact I had only just begun to study them in Germany. I believe that eo’s would have made my pregnancies exponentially better and easier to handle.

The difference in approach to health between US and Europe is so different that it is astonishing and it is a feat to try to understand why we approach our healthcare so differently. I think our economy and structure of our government and their relationship to our healthcare industry are an obvious matter. I also think that as much as we are alike as far as coming from there and our cultures blending here, we refuse to follow the traditions of our ancestors from Europe and all over. It seems that we care far more about progress and discovery. The US tends to look like the rebellious teenager to the rest of the world, no matter how popular we are – it is frustrating to deal with when it comes to healthcare. This is part of the reason why (wealthy) people used to flock to Europe for medical treatments aka Medical Tourism the other is rising costs that make treatment at home totally unaffordable.

The Issue with Big Pharma

It can be and is continuously debated about whether we were made by God or just by chance. Either side of the aisle you may stand on, we can all agree that we are made of this Earth and we share those elements of Earth in our DNA. So why do we think or assume that the Earth, its plant life, its DNA cannot heal us as well as well believe that it can sustain us?

Instead of overwhelming our bodies with manufactured chemical medicine, we should try to heal what can be healed with natural elements that our bodies can recognize and use efficiently. This way, when we do need to take medicine created in labs, our bodies are not overwhelmed with chemicals and in theory our bodies our stronger. With a less inundated body, we should be able to handle treatments better and with less side effects.

Think of it this way…

When someone with cancer undergoes chemotherapy, the treatment usually makes them terribly ill to the point on frequent nausea/vomiting, fatigue and weakness, hair loss, bowel issues, etc… Their body is under attack and using all of its energy and resources to maintain itself. All its defenses are focused on the chemo which is simultaneously killing cancer cells and healthy white blood cells, which are vital to protecting our bodies. The body is left susceptible to infection and other illnesses; contracting an illness during chemo is extremely dangerous because the immune system that normally protects us isn’t working properly. Read this article for a more in depth look at cancer and the immune system.

Cancer patients are subsequently told to be very careful with their diets. Firstly because nutrition is exceedingly important for the body at all times but even more critical when the body’s immune system us very weak. Second because food-borne illnesses are very common and ingesting one could be very serious business for a an already weakened immune system. The American Cancer Society has a very detailed set of guidelines for patient nutrition, with the main focus on being incredibly careful with specific foods and preparations.

This is just one example of why it is crucial to strengthen our body (and immune system) before and during heavy pharmaceutical treatments. Not all medicines attack the body in the way chemotherapy does, however, many medications do weaken the body’s immune system and can even cause cancer. So if we can do anything to protect our body prior to needing a powerful drug, such as strengthening our immune system with a healthy diet or not using other pharmaceuticals for conditions that can be treated naturally, shouldn’t we?

Lauren had to take a lot of pills everyday for her cancer treatment, she also had many side effects to deal with and she chose to use Alternative Medicine along with her medications. She had reflexology regularly to help with pain, she has a close family friend from India that introduced her to this therapy and had been treating her for many years when she visited her parents in England. When she was home in the States, she sought out an experienced professional that could do the same for her. She believed that it was very effective for her pain and helped her body immensely. She also used essential oils for pain and relaxation – her all time favorite was Lavender and she was always carrying some with her. She also used clove oil to help with severe pain in her jaw which had been overcome with cancer. She was an avid user of Boiron singles tubes that she researched and found some to help with specific ailments, one was notably useful with her leg cramps and another for nerve pain.

She also had to take a lot of opioid pain killers which absolutely wrecked her body. I can also speak from personal experience with this, before I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia I was taking about 9 Percocet/day to manage the terrible pain but my body was in bad shape because of the pills. My digestive system was wrecked and I was very sick from it. I was also told that if I kept taking it at the dose and frequency I was, it would kill me. Luckily, right at the moment when I was at my absolute worst, I had just been correctly diagnosed and tried a new treatment that actually worked compared to many failed attempts with others. After about a year of being off pain killers completely, my head is so much clearer and I have a better memory and feel unbelievable clarity. It’s truly shocking how strongly medication can take control of your mind and body and its difficult to understand it until you’ve experienced it personally.

Time to Market

The FDA does not require pharmaceutical companies to test their formulas for enough time before they are marketed to consumers – which is why we end up with massive lawsuits from major unadvertised side effects, worsened health, and even death a few years after the masses started taking it. Just watch some late night television and you’re bound to see at least two commercials asking if you or a loved one have been affected by a certain medication. We can end up in much worse shape than we started before taking them and as more time goes by, the warnings on pharmaceutical ads are getting far scarier. Like “you may experience severe pain, rash, organ damage, (input symptom you’re trying to cure here), even death. Wait! I’m sorry but I want to treat my condition with your medicine, not have 10-20+ side effects and die from it…

The funny thing about natural medicine vs. manufactured, is that those unwanted side effects are part of the package when you take that prescription and in natural medicine, you may have side-effects but they usually are overwhelmingly positive. Take for example Lavender, probably the most popular flower medicine on the planet, it has many properties that are beneficial to the body and mind. One person may take it to help them relax, while another might use it for anxiety, or another might use it for skin care, aromatherapy, or even perfume. The calming properties flow through this treatment in all the ways it is used but the same plant is being used in multiple ways and for different reasons. The correlation between a drug we might take for the same ailments as we do with lavender, share similarities. Both treatments may work for anxiety or sleep but with the manufactured medication, you may betting getting more than you bargained for.

Just read the side effects of a bottle of the anxiety medication, Klonopin… “you may experience a rash or severe allergic reaction, severe depression or thoughts of hurting yourself, increased saliva, confusion/memory problems, extreme drowsiness, and more”! A person who is seeking help with anxiety, certainly doesn’t need to add these problems to their life. It seems logical to conclude that this would only make the anxiety worse. So we end up taking medications for one condition that end up creating more conditions – even making them worse sometimes. The cycle is often made even worse by being given other medications to treat the symptoms and side-effects of the primary medication taken for the original health issue, where does it end?

There are even depression medications that if not taken at the correct dose can worsen depression and a doctor can only determine the right dose for one individual after they learn how that person’s body is handling it as we are all different and every body does not react the same to a treatment. This means a person who is already severely depressed, enough to take medication for relief, likely could need to experience a worsened depression just to find the right dose. This has happened to people I know and it is unacceptable that the medical community thinks this is OK for people. At the end of the day, the Doctor goes home and lives their life and the patient goes home and lives theirs, often suffering through the waiting period for the medication to work.

I can say with absolute certainty that lavender ain’t doin’ that.

I would like to point out that severe depression very likely cannot be helped with lavender alone, I’m not stupid but that doesn’t mean it can’t help. Especially, in the case of plants for aromatherapy, scientist have found an incredibly strong link to our sense of smell and our brain function. This is a fact and has been proven many times over. This university article sums up what science now thinks about aromatherapy and its effect on the brain:

“The “smell” receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, scientists believe lavender stimulates the activity of brain cells in the amygdala similar to the way some sedative medications work. Other researchers think that molecules from essential oils may interact in the blood with hormones or enzymes”…read on by clicking here.

Skepticism

Of course, not all scientists agree but that is more of an issue of stubbornness in my eyes. There are many doctors that I’ve met personally, who have literally rolled their eyes when I bring up any kind of natural treatment. I’ve also met some doctors who agree with my belief that they two realms should be used together. or complimentary, for maximum benefit to a patient.  This first type of negative reaction is pretty normal in the scientific community and is also pretty unacceptable for people to totally overlook and discount the idea of a plant being able to serve as treatment over its lab created equivalent.

Well let us remind these folks that much of our medicines are actually created with or derived from those very taboo plants. Opiate pain medications such as Morphine, Oxycontin, Codeine, and Percocet are derived from Opium, a plant more commonly known as the Poppy Flower. Both modern and ancient medicine have used this as a common treatment for severe pain, its just highly regulated now and greatly abused. This is one of natures most powerful plants and is used widely in modern medicine, yet when faced with the notion that other plants could help heal and treat – suddenly its a crazy idea. wtf?

Another key issue with skepticism is that the market is absolutely flooded with natural and fake natural products. Some of which are tested ad show no trace of the plant that they claim it has. Some are riddled with fake reviews paid for by the company. Some outright lie about the products and its ability to cure or heal. The thing about natural and alternative medicine is that it isn’t regulated and some supporters would say for good reason as there are laws that protect Alternative Medicine from FDA regulation. The problem with lack of regulation is that this opens up the floodgates for thousands of products that are ineffective and even dangerous. These makers hide under the blanket of zero regulation and make the entire industry look bad, ineffective and cause important organizations and critics to label this field as pseudo-science.

Hope + Resolution

This issue isn’t getting resolved anytime soon, there is far too much money involved for these pharmaceutical corporations to let natural medicine become a leading treatment method. So for now, it is up to each of us to study and learn about alternative options. This is such a massive topic and so many sources of information and misinformation are out here on the web, so how do we know who to trust or what to trust? It has taken me years to get to where I am today in knowledge and direction but it would be so much better if it wasn’t so hard. Luckily, it seems to me that our culture has been shifting from our old ways of thinking towards natural medicine and so many people have learned the hard way about trusting our doctors and pharmaceutical companies completely with our health without doing our own research.

If the FDA, the medical community, and the natural/alternative health community could just work together on the whole health factor, using complimentary treatments, we could all be much better off. Instead the FDA considers homeopathy and alternative medicine to be somewhat irrelevant. Yes its hard to control nature and hard to get the same results in every test as we can with manufactured chemicals but just because something is hard to do, doesn’t mean it should be totally overlooked – especially when it is effective. Instead of giving it no chance, there should be an influx of research into plants and minerals that are a natural resource and easy to grow and maintain. So many medicines are already derived from natural substances yet the government, pharmaceutical companies, as well as he medical community seem to reject the possibility that other plants could be just as effective. The real reason is that they aren’t as profitable – and they shouldn’t be. Just like water is or should be available to everyone, so should medicine. The kind of medicine that we can cultivate on our own is not what corporations want as they would make far less money.

It’s the same reason that Marijuana has for decades been denied to the public. It is not a dangerous substance but it is very effective in treating a wide array of symptoms that arise from illness and medical treatment. Funny how something so incredible and natural was made illegal. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that pharmaceutical companies would lose billions of dollars if people suffering has a much less expensive way of treating themselves that could be grown at home and eliminate the need for a prescription. Italics meant indicate a heavy dose of sarcasm in that last statement. Now that progressive states with serious courage to stand up to the Federal Government – like Colorado, Washington, and California are paving the way for a Cannabis Comeback the medical industry are surely feeling the the financial repercussions and I’m sure are trying to dip their toes in this pool.

This 1997 Harvard paper titled FDA and the Challenge of Alternative Medicine is still very relevant 20 years later to this issue. It concisely points out the issues that are to this day still a problem.

This idea is part of why supporters of natural medicine can be weary of government regulation and interference. What if all plants and natural medicines wee suddenly under scrutiny and regulated by the FDA? Prices would skyrocket for simple herbs and extracts because with government regulation comes fees, penalties, and a lot of other costly requirements. It also opens up the possibility of endless legal entanglements that can be cleverly thought up by lawyers or legal teams employed by companies with opposing interests.

A good example of this practice is Monsanto Corp. they continually open lawsuits against people, farmers, and organizations who oppose them. They do this with incredible efficacy in part because they also have some frightening control in the government. In many cases the heads of these companies also work in the government that regulates them or they used to work for them and left for the government position that would control the company – this is no coincidence. Read more on this here. Or just Google Monsanto in the Government and read the first few articles. You’ll also find that Monsanto is not the only corporation to do this and that the medical industry is also in this practice of government to corporation job transfers, both ways.

The Internet

Also resources like webmd are so overused and people are scared into believing their symptoms always point to a more sinister culprit, such as cancer.So common, in fact, that the subject has become a common joke to most. But as funny as the jokes are, the joke is on all of us. So we run right back to our doctors and prescriptions and we forget that we owe it to ourselves to determine what is really going on. Nobody knows your body better than you do. Do you ever tell your doctor your symptoms and feel like what they heard you describe was totally different that what you actually told them? As clear as we try to be, there seems to be a disconnect with the patient’s communication with their doctor and that doctor’s perception or bias to assume they know you better than you. This is why medical tests are so helpful, because everyone’s idea of specific pain or ailment is always going to be biased by our personal experience with it. The same way we can relate through personal experience, is also the same way we can’t always communicate or hear what is being told without bias. Funny how our brains work.

Did you know that webmd and similar websites are using these searches we make on symptoms and conditions for their own benefit? I read an article a while back that scared the hell out of me. To think that anytime I have looked up a symptom or a condition online on certain websites, that information was used to sell off to corporations or target me with ads, services, and many other things – makes you realize that privacy is now a thing of the past.

I can’t remember the exact article I initially read on the subject but here is a very similar summary of what’s up.

I have noticed that incorporating a bit of Alternative Medicine has become part of a growing approach to treatments such as Cancer. Whole wellness for body and mind seems to be of importance, likely in part because of patients who took their health into their own hands and used alternative therapies without their doctor’s approval and proved to them the importance of complete health and nutrition. Just as it has taken many years to convince our country that Organic foods are healthier than pesticide-treated and GMO foods, natural medicine is on the same plane and needs more support.

I started this post as a simple introduction to essential oils and how helpful they can be and it quickly morphed into all this… Sometimes when the thoughts just flow, you gotta go with it. I’ll work on the essential oils post next but for now I hope that what I wrote can be of help to someone. Like so many topics and discussions, people have pretty strong opinions on major issues such as healthcare and government. This is all my opinion from my own life experiences and that of a wise woman who taught me. I am very interested to learn more always and post new articles on what I learn in the future.

I also am not including any affiliate links or adverts within this post as it feels wrong to do so.

 

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