Herbs are Not Drug Substitutes!

We learned on the previous page that the most fundamental tenet of natural health philosophy is the body has the capability of healing itself.

As evident as this truth might appear, many have forgotten it. During the first half of the 20th century, the public was infatuated with science and technology. The discovery of “miracle drugs” such as penicillin led many to believe that medical science was on the verge of eliminating all disease from the face of the earth. It was a time when confidence in our technological ability led us to believe that science would eventually overcome the forces of nature.

During the latter half of the 20th century this folly was increasingly becoming apparent, as new incurable diseases like AIDS appeared on the scene, and as “super germs”—produced by the overuse of antibiotics—began to plague even the most “medically advanced” societies. People began to see the other side of the technological monster they had created; and some began to count the costs, not only in terms of money, but in terms of death and human suffering resulting from dangerous medical procedures and side-effects.

He’s a fool that makes his doctor his heir.
Benjamin Franklin

The more we departed from nature, the more costly health care became. Medical care in the U.S. became so expensive that a “health care crisis” was announced and the government decided it was time to do something about it. However, the government’s attempt to curb the crisis by pouring more money into it was like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. The result was the bureaucratic nightmare that we are still dealing with today, in which not only are health care costs spiraling out of control, but so too is the bureaucracy designed to control it!

Meanwhile, these events led thinking people to question our over-reliance on technological medicine, resulting in a desire to “return to nature” for more of our health care and maintenance. This brought about a new philosophy—a “natural health philosophy”—in which “natural is better.” Many people are returning to more traditional methods of health care such as herbalism, nutrition, massage, meditation, spinal manipulation, exercise, etc.

Herbs Are Not Drug Substitutes!

As more people are becoming aware of the dangerous side-effects of drugs, and with increasing awareness of natural and herbal alternatives, I am often asked to recommend an herb as a substitute for a drug. I immediately recognize that what this person needs more than an herb is a change in attitude—or a shift in the way they think about caring for their health.

Drugs, for the most part, cover up or suppress symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. A drug for high blood pressure, for example, does not address the underlying heart disease that causes the symptom of high blood pressure. It simply lowers the blood pressure, artificially, leaving the disease untouched. With the symptom suppressed, the patient lulled into a state of complacency, the disease is allowed to progress until it raises its ugly head again in the form of additional—and usually more serious—symptoms. At that point more drastic measures (such as heart surgery) are employed.

Natural health when used correctly addresses the cause of disease. Most herbs are not that great at suppressing symptoms, and for that reason are poor substitutes for drugs. Most people who use herbs today, even those in the business of recommending and selling them, are still holding on to their old medically-induced attitudes toward health. Consequently they are rarely satisfied with their outcomes. For best results herbs should be used as a part of a complete program, including lifestyle changes, designed to improve overall health. The whole individual is treated, not just the symptom or disease. Traditional Chinese doctors have known this for centuries. For us reductionistic Westerners, it is a concept that is a little more difficult to accept.