Balancing Herbalism and Modern Medicine

Herbalism and modern medicine often seem to be at odds with each other.  Advocates on both sides concentrate their energies on the negativities of the other.  Modern medicine has too much chemicals and not enough ethics, and herbalism relies on the self and not experts.  Yes, there are positives and negatives to both practices, but do they have to be at odds?  No. They really can compliment each other nicely, but in my experience there are a couple of guidelines to follow.

  1. Always talk to your doctor: You want to know who turned me onto herbalism?  The doctor I had in high school.  I was suffering from side effects from acne medication, and he suggested I try some alternative remedies.  While I realize not every doctor is as open to new ideas, if you advocate for yourself and state your intentions they will listen to you. Also, always consult your doctor about how herbs can interact with medications.
  2. For chronic and serious conditions, go to a doctor. Period:  Wake up with a killer ear ache?  Get some antibiotics.  Find a lump in your monthly breast exam?  See a gynecologist   Do not rely on herbs for EVERYTHING.  One special note:  Depression and anxiety are two conditions a lot of people ignore and try to treat themselves.  Take it from someone who has been there, mental conditions are not trivial or not serious.  See a health professional.
  3. Supplement:  This is best explained in example. I have asthma.  I am strongest affected by physical activity and environment conditions.  For when I think I am going to have an attack, I use my inhaler.  But if it’s cold outside and I know that’s going to make by breathing difficult, I rub eucalyptus oil on my chest and cover up with a scarf.  You know yourself and know the difference of when to use what.
  4. Know what you can treat: No, you cannot treat everything.  But you can do some things.  I feel comfortable treating about half a dozen things: car sickness, hangovers, acne, small nicks and cuts, asthma management (although if I have an attack I go to the hospital and let experts help), insomnia (to some extent), and colds.  I would feel extremely nervous treating cancer.  Know the difference.

Obviously I am not a medical professional, so you do not need to listen to me.  This is just the perspective I have on keeping healthy.  You and your doctor should ultimately determine your plan.

Knowledge is power.  Know yourself, know how your body works, and know how to ask for help.

© Ariadne Woods


2 thoughts on “Balancing Herbalism and Modern Medicine

  1. I really like how you say this here. I have studied herbalism in one apprenticeship some years ago, and have been learning on my own since. Mostly, I just use and expand lightly on the things I learned in class.

    Recently I started working for an herbalism website, and I realized that it is far too tempting to say things that make it seem as if an herb is going to fix someone’s issue just because it has a pretty name and I know the word “cholagogue.”

    I find that the articles I write for that site tend to focus on what you are saying here- that doctors are essential to many conditions, especially when things are serious. Herbs can be great preventatives, and they can work beautifully as part of a complex situation that you create like you did with eucalyptus though learning about our own bodies..but they are not a fix-all or a magic remedy, especially when things are super far out of balance already.

    Great post. It made me feel like there are still sane people out there who like herbalism! 🙂

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