Herbal Medicine and its Controversies

Why Are Herbal Remedies So Controversial?

This is a good question. Despite helping millions of people for thousands of years, herbal remedies, homeopathy, and other alternative medicines are still far from being accepted by western society. Medical research council’s, doctors, and the general public are dubious about the benefits of medicines that don’t come pre-packaged with a ‘This is Modern Medicine Built in a Laboratory’ sticker attached.
So why are these types of medicines controversial, and does it matter anyway?
Unvetted Sources
The first thing to acknowledge in this debate is that not all alternative medicine is legitimate. In some cases, companies try to claim their product works as an alternative cure for medical conditions when it has little to no medicinial qualities.
This leads back to the blessing and curse of alternative medicine: it’s not regulated. Because it doesn’t have a governing body in the same way traditional medicine does, it’s possible for medicines to call themselves “herbal” and be sold, without having to prove that they work. 
If a company can put whatever what they want on a label and claim that it helps treat a condition, then someone, somewhere, will do so to make a quick profit. But that doesn’t mean all alternative medicines are like that. The key is to understand that you can’t tar all alternative medicine with the same brush. This is where just a little intelligence is needed. Many accepted modern medicines can do more harm than good, yet you don’t see people refusing life-saving operations. So why do people believe that because one alternative medicine doesn’t work for them, that none will?
Little Profit
The real cause of the controversy surrounding alternative medicine is this: there’s limit profit in it. What we mean is, compared to the $3 trillion US healthcare system, there is next to no money in this kind of healthcare. You can’t monopolize natural remedies (though some companies have tried) in the same way you can patent a drug, hike the price, and make millions in the process. In many ways, alternative medicine is about compassionate medicine; unlike the health insurance companies, hospitals, and drug manufacturers who are in business to make mega money, alternative medicine practitioners are in the game because they believe in their product and want to help people.
But make no mistake: if it was possible to make a trillion dollars from alternative medicine, you would see it everywhere. The government would back it, you’d see advertisements for it on TV, doctors would prescribe it, and it would generally become part of our way of life.
Money has always driven our healthcare system, and continues to do so. Things that sell get airtime, and things that don’t get ignored. You only need to look at the staggering quantities of anti-depressant pills that are prescribed to the public each year, despite their effectiveness continually called into question. That a three month supply of the pills can cost in excess of $1000 is surely just a strange coincidence.
Be Wary Of Source
The healthcare system doesn’t want natural remedies to become popular; it’s bad for business. You should always question why somebody is telling you something. Even if – and this isn’t true – natural remedies had zero effectiveness, they definitely don’t do any harm. So why would there be a campaign against something that isn’t bad? Shouldn’t there be more of a focus on things that actually might harm you?
There’s been a conscious and constant stream of disinformation spread about natural products, and it hasn’t been for our benefit. You only have to look back to the beginning of the controversy to understand its motives. Natural remedies were hugely popular in the early 19th century, but when the American Medical Association came only in 1844, they deemed natural medicines to their rival, began a campaign to destroy its credibility, most damagingly by claiming it to be “unscientific”.
Final Thoughts
Despite what the figureheads and the media say about alternative remedies, there’s one thing they can’t dispute or stop: people themselves saying that it works. For the people who have had their epilepsy, PTSD, infections, flu, and diabetes, along with many other conditions, helped by natural medicines, they already have their answer. When you can’t trust the people telling you the news, it’s time to just try it and see for yourself that it works.
Beating The ‘Dirty Survivalists’ Myth – How To Keep Clean The Natural Way
Cleanliness is very important. Drugs and improved knowledge of anatomy have helped us to advance medically, sure, but few things have revolutionized the preservation of human health quite so much as the discovery of the importance of hygiene. Poor hygiene in hospitals is frequently described with no exaggeration as “a matter of life and death” [1]. Furthermore, a clean and fresh body and environment is incredibly good for us, psychologically speaking. Researchers have found that personal cleanliness renders the judgement of others upon us “less severe” [2]. Other sources claim that a clean home, as well as harboring fewer germs, can render us happier, less stressed, and less likely to experience conflict in our personal lives. However, these days we tend to associate cleaning with the use of artificial chemicals. What on earth would we do were these chemicals denied us? Would we have to resort to living in filth? Well, no. There are plenty of natural ways to keep ourselves and our environments clean and serene. Here are just a few.
Cleaning Your Home
A clean environment in which to live is vital on many levels. Not only does it keep you and your family healthy, it also makes you feel in control of your life, and provides a pleasant impression for visitors. It also ensures that your home – wherever or whatever it be – is likely to be better maintained than it otherwise would. In today’s world, home insurers are likely to lower premiums for properties which are demonstrably clean and well-kept, as this implies that the house is less likely to attract pests, or generally fall into the kind of disrepair which may necessitate a payout. Although insurance may not be an issue in the potential world of tomorrow, home maintenance probably will be. Letting dirt accumulate quickly leads to the erosion of the fabric of your home, as well as encouraging vermin and insect pests to set up shop there and get to work on your valuable food supplies (all while distributing germs liberally through your pantry). Without the aid of chemical cleaning tools, there are plenty of alternatives which you can use to keep home degradation at bay. Here are just a few of them:
Vinegar – Vinegar, with its acidic properties, is a fantastic cleaning tool. It’s not hard to come by, either. As long as someone is making wine or cider, you can use the leftovers to make vinegar. As Ohio State University point out [3], however, the corrosive properties of vinegar are so great that you’d be advised to make it in a wooden rather than a metal container. Once you have your vinegar (white ideally), mix it into a solution of nine parts water, one part vinegar, and use it the way you would a chemical antibacterial spray. You’ll be amazed at how effective it is!
Lemon Oil – Lemon oil, like vinegar, is also acidic and antibacterial. It has the advantage over vinegar of smelling much nicer! You can use a lemon sliced in half to clean shiny metal surfaces like brass – if they’re particularly troublesome, and need an abrasive scrub, add salt and scrub off with the lemon. A lemon rubbed over a tough stain and left overnight will work wonders at stain removal, and lemon juice kills a whole host of harmful germs.
Baking Soda – If you can get hold of baking soda, then you’re in luck. Baking soda is not the easiest thing to manufacture, but neither is it impossible in a post-industrial world. Baking soda neutralizes odors as well as often removing stains, making it a fantastic all-purpose cleaner.
Salt – Salt, particularly kosher salt, is a great antiseptic. A salt solution mixed with vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, or essential herb oils (for a great-scented home) and spritzed onto problem areas will make an amazing cleaning material. It provides that extra abrasive touch needed for tougher dirt.
Cleaning Yourself
Personal hygiene is very important for both physical and psychological health. In truth, we probably don’t need to wash quite as often as we do. Experts believe that we “over-bathe” [4] in modern society, which is actually counterproductive as it involves washing away protective substances in our skin and hair which actually protect and deodorize us. Having said this, however, bathing fulfils an important psychological need for many of us, and it’s certainly true that keeping ourselves clean makes others think much better of us. With this in mind, here are a few natural products which you can use to keep yourself fresh and lovely.
Honey – It may sound odd, given how sticky the stuff is, but you can wash your hair in honey. It’s great at getting rid of unwanted grease in your hair and, unlike modern detergent shampoos, it does it without stripping your hair of essential oils. It’s a fantastic conditioner as well. Use 1 part honey to 3 parts water, and add some essential oils should you feel like a sensual, scented experience. Lavender oil works particularly well. Carrot seed oil is also great for hair nourishment, if you have trouble with brittle hair and frizz.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is a great all-purpose cleanser for both hair and body. It’ll get rid of any grime and dirt with ease. If you fear that you’ll smell a bit ‘vinegary’ after use, then add a few drops of some scented herbal oil.
Saponins –  Saponins are herbs which can be induced to lather up rather like soaps, and have similar cleansing benefits. Examples include wild yam, ginseng, licorice, horsechestnuts, alfalfa, sarsaparilla and lily of the valley. These (usually the roots) must be mashed, and added to water to make a pleasing lather which you can use to wash your face and body.
[1] Bryan Walsh, “Happy Clean Your Hands Day!”, Time, May 2011
[2] Simone Schnall, Jennifer Benton, Sophie Harvey, “With A Clean Conscience: Cleanliness Reduces Severity Of Moral Judgements”, Psychological Science, Dec 2008
[3] Ohio State University, “Making Cider Vinegar At Home”
[4] Jennifer Phelps, “How Often Should You Shower?”, Times Union