Natural medicine. Part 2

A related issue arises with vitamins and minerals. Although vitamin E is a necessary nutrient, the vitamin E in tablets is a refined processed product, a single isolated chemical. It’s not as natural as food rich in vitamin E. Nonetheless, it can be called natural, because using vitamin E supplements involves improving nutrition. All vitamins and minerals satisfy the qualification of natural medicine in this way. (See What’s the difference between a nutritional dose and a megadose of vitamins and supplements? for an additional aspect to the use of such supplements.)

Food Supplements

Other “food supplements” are not actually nutrients. Examples include glucosamine (used for arthritis), coenzyme Q10 (used for heart conditions as well as to correct depletion caused by drugs), and creatine (used as a sports supplement and for muscle disease). You don’t ordinarily get very much glucosamine, coenzyme Q10, or creatine in your diet. However, they are found in foods to some extent, and when taken by mouth they appear to augment normal body functions. Therefore, it makes some sense to call them natural.

Still other supplements are not “natural” at all, in any meaningful sense of the word. DHEA, melatonin, and “natural” progesterone are indeed found in the body, but they do not occur to any appreciable extent in foods. They are really no different than many other hormones you might receive by prescription. Finally, some substances sold as dietary supplements such as vinpocetine and huperzine A (both are used for memory loss) are just drugs that have “sneaked through” the regulatory process and wound up on the dietary supplement shelf.

The moral of the story is that if you want your medicine to be “natural,” you need to think about whether you are accomplishing that goal with the treatment you are considering. The Encyclopedia will help you make these decisions wisely.

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