Is Natural Medicine safe?


For many years, Natural Medicine has always been touted as being the safer of the two medical systems. After all herbs and vitamins rarely if ever give you side-effects. They are also often non-toxic and rarely habit forming.

However this view is often rebutted by critics on the pro Western Medicine side who will talk about the incidences of herbal products being toxic or dangerous. One of the most recent incidents being skullcap (about 3 4 years ago). The difference is that when herbal products are considered unsafe, very often the person has been using a product for months if not years. Very often you have liver enzyme inflammation or a side effect like that. In contrast when Western Medicine drugs are considered to be unsafe, the death count would have often reached thousands and than someone blows the whistle and its yanked of the market or it comes back on the market with new disclaimers.

Doctors in the UK have linked 103 deaths to patients taking the drug Vioxx, which was mainly used to treat the pain associated with arthritis.

Dr David Graham said he had felt pressured to water down findings from a study linking the drug to greater chances of heart attacks. An FDA scientist told a Senate inquiry in November that the regulator had been guilty of a “profound regulatory failure”. According to Dr Graham’s calculations, Vioxx may be linked to as many as to 56,000 American deaths.

Research published by The Lancet medical journal, also in November, highlighted a study by the University of Berne in Switzerland which found serious question marks over the safety of the drug dating back to 2000. The Lancet concluded that the drug should have been taken off the market years before it was finally withdrawn. Editor Dr Richard Horton said: “The licensing of Vioxx and its continued use in the face of unambiguous evidence of harm have been public health catastrophes.”

So at this point we can say Natural Medicine is safer. However let me offer you a third scenario. If Western Medicine is guilty of sins of commission, Natural Medicine is guilty of sins of omission. Western drugs can kill. A Natural Medicine practitioner or therapist can by holding out false hope mislead a patient into foregoing the appropriate treatment.

A case in point. I saw this young lady who said she had a lump in her breast. She refused to have it X-rayed or scanned. I felt that I could not responsibly treat someone without appropriate testing. She opted to work with someone else who promised that her condition would clear up. This someone kept selling her health products for two years giving her the impression that her cancer would improve.

Two years later, she came back to see me. She was still alive. However her breast was ulcerated. She had been using hydrogen peroxide on an open wound because she has heard or read somewhere that this was a good way to clean it up. Eventually I persuaded her to work with a medical doctor as well.

Eventually she had the ulcerated (cancerous complication) breast removed. Eventually the tumours spread and she had to do chemotherapy. What should have been an open and shut case has become a precarious one. If she had done the X-rays and the scan, done surgery to reduce the tumour burden than gone on to do nutrition and diet, the whole situation would have been very different. Simply because someone with the best of intentions and the poorest of knowledge, information and training had held out to the cancer patient that these Natural Methods and products would cure her cancer.

In my opinion this is really sad. Of course the practitioner would maintain, “I was only giving her advice. She had made the choice.” The issue is more like, was there a gross misrepresentation? So what would you my dear reader do? Be safe when you work with Natural Medicine. Ask for training, expertise and life experience in your wellness practitioner.

Be well

Dr Sundardas

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2 thoughts on “Is Natural Medicine safe?

  1. I go with natural medicine…..

  2. Dr. Sundaras –

    You bring up some great points on both sides of this debate. We have to be vigilant as practitioners and properly educate our patients on the dangers they may face in certain conditions.

    No matter what type of practitioner, we do have an ethical responsibility. Better yet, patients should inform themselves enough to work with a practitioner who has not only sworn an oath, but is also held to this by law.

    While unlicensed practitioners may help in certain cases, there is no substitute for proper medical care by a trained professional.

    Heidi Wittmann ND
    San Diego, CA, USA
    http://www.verdenaturalmedicine.com

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