Meds or Natural Alternatives? Choose Wisely

Herbal medicine and herbs

Modern medications can be necessary and life-saving – many illnesses demand their use. But what happens when our reliance on powerful pharmaceuticals blinds us to their risks? Painful side effects and dependency are common, and adverse drug reactions are America’s fourth leading cause of death.

medsIn MIND OVER MEDS: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better – and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own, by bestselling author Dr. Andrew Weil alerts readers to the problem of overmedication, and outlines when medicine is necessary, and when it is not. Dr. Weil examines how we came to be so drastically overmedicated, presents science that proves drugs aren’t always the best option, and provides reliable integrative medicine approaches to treating common ailments like high blood pressure, allergies, depression, and even the common cold.

Drugs are powerful. Some are miraculously effective. No responsible physician today would reject medication as a method of treating disease and maintaining health. But it is one method only. Too often, drugs fail to correct the problems they are meant to solve, or simply reduce symptoms without addressing the root causes of disease. They are seen as quick-and-easy fixes for conditions that would be better addressed by lifestyle modifications, the judicious use of natural products, and nondrug therapies.

Close-up of a person's hand holding a bottle of pillsFor instance, many doctors have no problem prescribing low dosages of anti-inflammatory steroids such as Prednisone to treat various ailments. An estimated 1.2 percent of the U.S. population over the age of twenty—more than 2.5 million people—received oral steroids between 1999 and 2008. The steroids can be used to effectively treat dermatitis, psoriasis, asthma, hay fever, joint and muscle pain, and transfusion and drug hypersensitivity reactions. But a reliance on these steroids, as well as higher than needed dosage amounts can lead to prolonged health issues such as high blood pressure, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, depression and infection. Natural alternatives include:

  • Turmeric: The spice that gives its deep yellow color to curry powder and prepared yellow mustard. An impressive body of scientific evidence documents its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Ginger: It has anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and antioxidant activities, as well as a small amount of analgesic properties.
  • Fish Oil: Supplements have consistently been found to decrease chronic inflammation and pain, including arthritis pain, neuropathy, and menstrual cramping.
  • Reishi Mushrooms: Used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, it is another effective, natural anti-inflammatory root. Too woody and bitter to eat, it is best used in the form of extracts, either liquids or capsules.
  • Exercise: One of the best studied treatments for pain. This can include physical therapy, yoga, Pilates and tai chi—all can help large joint paint. It is also one of the best treatments for insomnia.
  • Other therapies: Massage, chiropractic, osteopathic manipulation and acupuncture can all be effective techniques to use for chronic pain management.

mortar and pestle with herbs

If you are on an expensive medicine, a pharmacist can often recommend a lower-cost alternative. Here are some important questions to ask your pharmacist:

  • Why am I on this medication?alternative medicine
  • How long should I take it for?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Is there a less expensive and/or natural alternative that would work just as well?

It is in the interest of us all—patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, parents—to reduce overmedication in our society. We all have work to do if we want to resolve it.  Feel inspired to find out whether safe and effective nondrug methods are available to manage any health conditions you have.

Listen to Bestselling author Dr. Andrew Weil explore the dangers of overmedication and outlines lifestyle changes and alternative treatments for common ailments.


About FoodTrients

Combining her passion for food and a lifelong commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle, Grace O has created FoodTrients®, a unique program for optimizing wellness. Grace O is a fusion chef with a mission: to cook up recipes for sustaining a long and joyful life that are built on a foundation of anti-aging science and her work in the health care industry. Mixing foods and unique flavors culled from a lifetime of travels from Asia to Europe and America, Grace O encourages young and old to celebrate a full life that embraces diversity. Lifestyle tips, age-defying recipes, and secrets of the healing properties of food are the centerpiece of FoodTrients™–all available through cookbooks, e-newsletters, and
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