What we refer to today as holistic Medicine is usually the use of unprocessed herbs and plant materials that may or may not provide a sort of “cure” for illnesses. These herbs are often combined with either traditional or newly developed treatment methods that are often said to surpass the methods used by formal medical professionals.
There is much debate about the legitimacy of these holistic methods, and their value in medicine will probably continue to be debated for years to come. The problem however is not so much that the treatment may not work, but the fact that some of these methods can be extremely dangerous.
Most people have heard of the more common treatments such as substituting ginseng for Viagra, or using ephedra for weight loss. However there are some much more potent plants that are being offered by holistic medical practitioners that are actually poisonous. Along with this, some of the supposed “detox” methods used in holistic medicine can lead to severe liver and kidney problems, and in some cases even death.
One common example of a poisonous herb being sold is Kava root. It is said to give feelings of wellbeing and relaxation, sometimes to the extent of being an anti-depressant. However, this herb is suspected to cause liver damage, especially with frequent use.
In 2004 the FDA banned ephedra, a Chinese weight-loss herb, after it was linked to more than 100 deaths. In addition to this, the popular Ayurvedic supplements, which are based on Indian and South Asian practices, often contain dangerous heavy metals including lead and mercury.
I’m sure many of you have heard the traditional remedy of rubbing butter on a burn, right? Did you know that butter actually promotes bacterial growth in the burn, and promotes infection? The butter may sooth the pain momentarily, but it actually promotes and speeds up the rate of infection.
Aside from the plant itself, you also have to be aware the dangers of overdose. Many chemicals that your physician prescribes you are helpful at a certain dose, and harmful at a slightly larger dose. An herbal dealer most likely doesn’t have the chemistry background to accurately provide the level of active ingredients and the equipment to measure and calculate the appropriate dosage.
For a large part, holistic medicine is based on a placebo effect. If you think it’s working then your brain can actually make you feel better. A large part of these herbs and poultices will hurt your pocketbook much worse than your body. However, before you try your next traditional remedy it would be wise to do your research into how exactly the ingredients react with the human body.
If you happen to indulge in some of the more potent “cures” on the holistic market, it may be the last decision you ever make.