Photo of fish oil and other supplements, and holistic, complementary and alternative medicine in the background

Does Natural or Alternative Medicine Really Work?

Does natural medicine really work? The Washington Post once published an article courting the question of whether or not “alternative medicine” really works. First of all, I must admit that after reading the article title, I didn’t have very high hopes for its content. I personally don’t like the term “alternative medicine” because of all that the term implies.

The Term Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine, to me and to many others, implies that the therapy in question and the conventionally used therapy exist in an either/or relationship. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I much prefer the term complementary medicine. People receive amazing benefits by using natural therapies as stand-alone therapies, but many patients have also experienced amazing results using natural therapies along with conventional therapies. This includes using natural therapies in order to speed up recovery time after hip surgery or to decrease the severity of side effects after chemotherapy.

Back to the Article

Despite my initial low expectations, I’m happy to report that, although I don’t agree with everything in the Washington Post article, it actually did exceed my expectations. Here’s my favorite quote from it:

…In that sense, there’s no such thing as alternative medicine. If clinical trials show that a therapy works, it’s good medicine. And if a therapy doesn’t work, then it’s not an alternative.

Here’s another thought-stimulating quote from the article. How’s this for a change in perspective?

“Herbal remedies are not really alternative,” writes Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist. “They have been part of scientific medicine for decades, if not centuries. Herbs are drugs, and they can be studied as drugs.”

The article went on to discuss the fact that the claims made concerning natural therapies are often more promising than the facts. People expect certain results when they purchase natural products. As a result, they end up being very disappointed. Why is that? Why do people find natural therapies to be ineffective when natural therapies were considered to be a viable form of medicine for years?

Here’s one Answer to these Questions:

Natural therapies are often involved in crazes or hypes. In response to these crazes, many companies produce low-quality natural products to make a quick buck. A few years ago, CBS news reported that manufacturers were filling herbal supplements with fake ingredients. Here’s a shocking (or not so shocking, depending on your perspective) quote from their article:

In many cases, unlisted contaminants were the only plant material found in the product samples. The retailer with the poorest showing was Walmart, where only 4 percent of the products tested showed DNA from the plants listed on the labels.

Unfortunately, people fall into the trap of purchasing these supplements because they believe that all natural therapies are created equal. As a result, natural therapies get a bad reputation and they experience no change in or a worsening of their physical health. This is one of the main reasons why people walk away thinking that natural therapies are ineffective.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When used appropriately, natural therapies can actually be very effective, and in many cases, as effective as pharmaceutical medication.

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