Saturday, March 13, 2010

Drugs and Herbs

I'm a pretty big fan of science. I think scientific advances have done many, many wonderful things for humanity. And one of the most notable places that science has helped us prosper is in health care. We have vaccines that keep us from getting diseases that used to wipe out thousands of people. We have drugs that can help even HIV positive people lead long, fairly healthy lives. We have advances in detection of disease, in treatment, and even more are on the way. It's amazing.

Yet, I'm cursed with being one of those people who can see the grey in a lot of areas.

I recognize that some drugs are released before we know long term effects of them. I know that some times, the list of side effects with a medication is so daunting, you wonder if it's going to create more problems than it's worth. It's something of a mixed bag.

And I can't identify with the people who don't understand that.

There are people who are super into homeopathic remedies, ready to take any herbal supplement that's chic to do everything from stopping the clock on aging to cure cancer. And I understand that in a dire, terminal situation, most people would do *anything* to try to save themselves, so that's not the kind of person I'm thinking of. No, I'm thinking of, say, people who have HIV who refuse to take the medication to pretty much ensure that their unborn child won't have HIV, because "Big Pharma" is just trying to profit off the "AIDS myth." I'm talking about people who shun medications for their very sick selves or children to take herbs and heal with prayer. People who think upping their vitamin C will cure their breast cancer with no help from that pesky medical community. There are those people. I don't understand them. Because while I absolutely think YOU are ultimately in charge of your health, and that EVERYONE should be more proactive about that - knowing what they're taking, the benefits and risks involved, if there are other treatments available - basically taking some time to truly understand what's wrong with you and how you're trying to fix it - I don't think that that means shunning every medical advance ever made in a quest to make your life ultra natural. You have to make some compromises somewhere.

But, I also don't get the people who instantly scoff off *any* alternate treatment as ridiculous, either. These people think that *anything* that hasn't been dispensed by a pharmacist or prescribed by a doctor can't possibly be worth anything. They'd rather pop some pills - even if the benefits don't really outweigh the risks - than try anything even hinting at homeopathic. Even things that have actually been proven to do some good in some cases. People who would rather have extensive back surgery than see a chiropractor. People who would pop a handful of pills for that cold before using a Neti-Pot to relieve some congestion.

Listen, I *know* herbal does not equal safe. I know homeopathic stuff is, quite often, a bs way people make some money. After all, ephedrine was marketed as a "safe, herbal way to lose weight" and we all see how that worked out. But there are a few things out there that actually do some good. Fenugreek certainly helped amp up my milk production, my Neti-Pot has been simply invaluable during this pregnancy, and even obs recommend taking a DHA supplement. Some things are worth trying out. Especially when they've been shown to do good, with less side effects. Most of these things won't work for anything super huge - you wouldn't try to use chiropractic services to handle a broken back, for instance - but for smaller situations, they can be very worthwhile.

I feel like, in health care, it's important to be skeptically open-minded. A contradiction in terms, but the way to be. Be skeptical enough to not immediately take someone else's word without checking yourself, and be open minded enough to acknowledge that there's possibility in different things.

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