Natural medicine. Part 1

Natural medicine is one of the fastest growing parts of health care. By some estimates, as many as 70% of Americans use herbs, vitamins, and other supplements to self-treat illnesses or improve overall health. But what is natural medicine, and what does “natural” mean?

Connection to Nature

The basic ideas of natural treatment were born in the 1800s as part of the first wave of the back-to-nature movement. Industrialization was just underway, and some foresaw a future where artificial chemicals would replace the products of nature, and human life would grow increasingly disconnected from nature. Their predictions were right, of course. Today, the desire to find a connection to nature is very strong, and with better reason than ever before.

Contemporary interest in natural therapies is a part of this overall desire. Herbs feel more wholesome than synthetic medications, and vitamin supplements seem to feed the body rather than artificially alter it. Paying close attention to diet and lifestyle is the most natural step of all, improving health and wellness at all levels.

However, if you look closely at the subject, you’ll find that not all therapies and products billed as “natural” deserve the name. Sometimes the hype pushes out reality.

Herbs

Herbs are a natural therapy, as herbs grow in nature and are essentially highly potent foods. This doesn’t mean that all herbs are safe, or that side effects and drug interactions aren’t possible (they are). However, the use of herbal supplements is unquestionably natural medicine.

However, if a manufacturer refines an herb so much as to greatly concentrate one particular constituent, the result is starting to become more a drug than a natural product. And when one single chemical is isolated out of an herb, or produced by extensive chemical modification of natural constituents, you now have a drug. Many conventional drugs are made in just this way.

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