Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Something that makes me a little grumpy.

Ok, I’m definitely not in the Naturopath/Homeopath camp. I like my medicine tested and proven, and hopefully safe.

That said, every time I hear anyone going on about how no traditional or herbal medicines have ever worked, ever, ever, ever, I just want to laugh.

Have we never heard of aspirin (derived from willow bark, initially dispensed in tea form, horrid, nasty, bitter, evil tea form, but as an herbal tea all the same) and morphine (taken from the sap of poppies, and used long before modern medicine)?

Other modern medicines derive from “traditional” and herbal sources as well. Digitalis, which is used to treat heart patients, using mentholated anything to open sinus and lung passages… There are a ton of things that we take for granted as “proven modern medicine” that have their roots in traditional medicine.

Does this mean I think that we should take all herbal or natural remedies at face value? No, I believe they should be tested for efficacy and lack of harm, just as other medicines are. Alas, our country doesn’t have the best track record on this even with medicines established in labs by big pharma companies: i.e. my dad’s cholesterol medication nearly killed him a few years ago. At least most herbal remedies aren’t going to kill you, even if they aren’t going to help you.

Most, I said. There are some that will.

Pennyroyal oil, which is often used to induce abortion in women who can’t or won’t get a medical abortion, does work with many of same side effects as an accepted drug like RU-486 (like massive cramps, vomitting, pain). However, Pennyroyal stands a FAR GREATER chance of seriously harming or KILLING you if you fuck up the dosage. This is one of the issues I have with Inga Muscio’s book “Cunt.” She talks about using Pennyroyal to induce abortion, but neither discusses how to achieve the right dose, nor does she emphasize the very real risks that can occur with a very small miscalculation in dose.

Another problem with herbal treatments and remedies is that herbs are not uniform in their potency. A really great growing season may result in plants with higher concentrations of what makes them effective, and a bad growing season may lessen the effectiveness. Also, not all the plants that people use are the correct plants. Just because we have something over here that we call chamomile, it doesn’t mean it is actually the right kind of chamomile for someone’s great-grandmother’s cold remedy, to use a really basic example.

BUT the fact remains that you should not attempt to treat massive injuries, illness or infection this way. Modern medicine is really your best bet for anything life threatening. There’s a reason people are living longer these days, it’s because we don’t have to rely on herbal remedies of dubious help or efficacy. As awful and catostrophic as some medical mistakes can be, and common, the majority of people are still living far longer and healthier than before the advent of modern medicine. So, yes, deciding you’re going to let your naturopath treat your cancer is just as stupid as stating “All herbal/folk remedies are bullshit.”

I understand that for many folks they feel it is simpler to say, “None of them work” than explaining that well, yes, some of them do, and pharmaceutical companies are indeed researching and using them, but you need to be careful.” I for one, having drunk willow bark tea once at the insistence of an uber hippy friend, am grateful that we can have it in a standardized dose, in a small easy to swallow pill I don’t have to taste.

However, much as when kids find out that the “Just say NO!” lectures about how pot will turn you into a raving junkie and have all these horrible effects on you are bullshit, and why should they believe anything you say… When you tell people that all herbal remedies are nonsense, and then they find out that the lastest cancer medication in clinical trials is based on extracts of four very common spices with a 60% success rate in animal trials… Well, you figure out what their response is going to be. They’re going to assume you’re completely blowing smoke up their ass, are a stooge of big pharma, and why shouldn’t they try the Cherokee Hair Tampons?

Seriously, don’t lie to people because you assume they’re too stupid to understand either the truth or that you’re lying. Because they will figure it out eventually, and then you’ve lost all credibility.

9 comments on “Something that makes me a little grumpy.

  1. morinon
    February 12, 2009

    Interesting side note: vaccinations are homeopathy that work. In fact, some of the earliest vaccinations were fairly disgusting in how they were done, but as a preventative homeopathic practice it’s considered the standard.
    That said, most homeopathy is simply snake oil.


    • loopback
      February 12, 2009

      No. vaccinations are NOT homeopathy. Homeopathy has as a base tenet the notion that the weaker a distillation is, the stronger its net effect. Vaccines do not become more effective the more you water them down.
      You are wrong, and giving homeopathy an unfair gilding of legitimacy by saying that vaccinations have anything to do with the homeopathic methodology.


      • morinon
        February 13, 2009

        Ah, see, I hadn’t realized the tenet was based on how distilled it was. I had only really come across the basic tenet of that which ails you, in a smaller amount, makes you stronger.
        See, I had simply applied logic to that tenet, and in so doing, apparently I found something that was accurate.


  2. xythen
    February 12, 2009

    What I HATEHATEHATE is the “But, It’s natural! It’s good for you!”
    Argh! As you’ve mentioned, there are tons of ALL! Natural! crap that will kill you just a dead as rat poison.


    • rae_beta
      February 12, 2009

      “Arsenic is natural, too” usually ends that argument pretty quickly.


      • polimicks
        February 12, 2009

        Or hemlock, or, or, or….


      • icprncs
        February 12, 2009

        On another note, someone has a problem with Inga Muscio? This is my surprised face, no really.


      • polimicks
        February 12, 2009

        She makes my stabbing muscles twitchy… and the fact that teen girls are going to pick that shit up thinking it’s all cool, and could learn some really stupid harmful shit from it…


  3. rae_beta
    February 12, 2009

    Well put. Thank you.
    I have friends who are extremely active in the skeptical and debunking community, and they try to distinguish not between “traditional” and “alternative” medicine, but between “demonstrable” (scientifically) and “dubious,” which works much better for me.
    The biggest problem with both sides you referenced above, I think, is that they take a defensible positions to indefensible extremes.


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This entry was posted on February 12, 2009 by in Uncategorized.

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