Natural medicine or Alternative Medicine or the field of Naturopathy with their widespread health food stores that have filled up the shelves of pharmacies as well is based on the propaganda that medications are chemicals and unsafe and their own products natural and safe. The field of naturopathy and the natural or herbal medicines that have dominated the health products market and sell more than prescription medicines, is solely based on the notion that the prescribed medications are chemicals and theirs are not. The irony is that everything is chemical, the oxygen in the air that we breath (O2), the water that we drink (H2O), and all the food that we eat, and so on.
In fact the prescribed medications that are nowadays synthesized in pharmaceutical factories have been originally made out of plants, e.g. Digoxin for heart attacks, Atropine for pupillary dilatation and else, Codeine for pain relief, L-Dopa for treatment of Parkinson’s, Aspirin, Quinidine an anti-arrhythmic, Reserpine a hypotensive, Theophylline a diuretic, and Yohimbine an aphrodisiac among so many others. Investing and profiting from the popular lack of sufficient knowledge and also the mass suggestibility, the field of alternative medicine has gone so far that simple food items such as garlic, cranberry and fish oils have nowadays been packaged in capsules, tablets and sold to consumers (1-2).
Although the science of Medicine originated from the herbs and plants, it was not until the modern era that the real based evidence medicine as we know it developed a competitor as “alternative medicine” to promote the use of natural medicine and other forms of healings. This alternative medicine or “naturopathy” from the start by the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp in late 19th century to Benedict Lust, the founder of naturopathy in US, started their propaganda against evidence-based or real medicine and medications, including vaccinations even in children and against killing infections such as small pox or chicken pox. Although naturopathy or alternative medicine cover an extensive area and different treatment modalities, e.g. acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbology, reflexology, Reiki and chiropractic, the focus here will be on the promotion of the use of natural or herbal medicines, vitamins, minerals and supplements that have become a huge profit making business and available everywhere even on the shelves of pharmacies and grocery stores (3).
The efficacy and safety of herbal medicines:
In argument against the core of natural or herbal medicine that they are natural and safe while prescription medicines are not, there are numerous studies across the globe demonstrating evidence to the contrary. It is well known even to the lay people that one could get poisoned by food, consuming plants or even coming in touch with them. Mushroom poisoning and contact dermatitis by poison ivy are the two very common examples that almost everyone is aware of. A total of 216 medicinal plants belonging to 77 families in North and Central America and Caribbean have been reported as toxic. These herbal medicines and alike that have been promoted and used for different illnesses such as rheumatism, wound healing, flu, headache, dysentery, gastritis, constipation, diarrhea, body pains, cancer, antiseptic, digestive, diuretic, fever, infections, menopause, dysmenorrhea, postpartum, diabetes, asthma, anemia, inflammation, muscle relaxant, hair loss, seizures, hypertension, anxiety, depression, psychosis, weight loss or simply to purify body and the blood, have been reported to cause many side-effects and toxicities (4).
The list of these untoward effects and toxicities like the claimed positive effects are numerous, e.g. nephrotoxicity (toxicity of kidneys), hepatotoxicity ((toxicity of liver), dermatitis, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle paralysis, cardiotoxicity (toxicity of heart), gastritis, even being carcinogenic, sleepiness, muscle paralysis, respiratory failure, neurotoxicity (toxicity of nerves and central nervous system), causing abortions, hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing visions), edema (swelling), hemorrhage, blurred vision, vertigo, stupor, confusion, being narcotic and addictive among others (5-16).
Other than the above gross and obvious toxicities, the herbal medicines could caused molecular and cellular toxicities (cytotoxicity), even mutagenicity and genotoxicity (causing gene mutations and toxicities). Some herbal medicines could also cause toxicities during pregnancy and reproduction and cause abortions. These facts are only the tip of the iceberg of the possible side-effects and toxicities of the herbal medicines as most people do not report to their physicians and refer to emergency rooms of hospitals when intoxicated. Moreover there are untoward interactions of the herbal or natural medicines with the prescription medications that again many patients do not report to their physicians or pharmacies when use these products in addition to their prescribed medications (17-20).
The case of naturopathy or homeopathy and their broad advertisements in media, specially in social media, TV, and many journals are beyond control. Nowadays to skip the drug agency controls, many of these products are offered in the common food products such as drinks, teas and even candies and other snacks. Moreover the health benefits of certain herbs, vegetables, plants and food as simple as garlic or fish oil have been exaggerated and they have been produced and released into tablets, capsules and sold in the market at a much higher prices, instead of promoting these basic food items in meals. These propagandas have been at the cost of advertising against the consumption of some food health promoting foods that nowadays are missing from many people’s diet such as dairy products, eggs, lipids, red meat and fruits (21-22).
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