I know. Some of you are shaking your heads and saying, “Hey! Isn’t this that goofy guy in the grass skirt and coconut bra with the lower half of a woman in rather racy attire as his side kick? The one who built that Tiny Travel Trailer? What does he know about herbalism?”
Fear not, my friends. Tis I. When you get to be as old as I am, you do manage to pick up a few various and sundry other tidbits of information along the way.
Truth be told, aside from being that clown in the grass skirt, I have been a practicing, mainstream medic for many, many years, a certified massage therapist (please don’t call us masseuses!)and have, for most of my life, been an avid believer and student of herbal remedies, supplements and alternative medicine. My herbal library would rival some of the most coveted herbal and homeopathic libraries out there. I have both participated in and conducted many herbal studies over many years and I love to spread that acquired knowledge (those few tidbits that my age addled gray matter has managed to retain, anyway) whenever and wherever it’s requested.
The main reason for the change in the blog’s subject, aside from the fact that the Tiny Travel Trailer (Nosty’s Nook) has long since been finished and has traveled many a mile and seen quite a few camp fires, is two fold. One, because I honestly believe I may have some valuable information to share and, two, because I’m aghast over some of the television commercials and magazine ads I’ve seen lately regarding the “Latest and Greatest Herbal Sensation, guaranteed to cure whatever ails you.” The level of hogwash allowed to be perpetuated to the public is scandalous at best…and deadly at worst. It’s high time someone came out and brought some unbiased facts to life in a no-nonsense, understandable format.
“Quick! Into a nearby vitamin shop! It’s a bird…it’s a plane…It’s Herbal Man!!”
Let’s face it. There are a few, unfortunate, human weaknesses that advertisers prey heavily on: Promise an aging man an instant solution to his male pattern baldness or erectile dysfunction, or a “gracefully aging” woman a miracle salve or pill that’ll eliminate wrinkles or reduce her dress size without diet or exercise, and many will be calling that one-eight-hundred number, stuttering out their credit card number to cover the requested, exorbitant fee, plus processing and handling, before you can say quinquagenarian!
Unlike mainstream pharmaceuticals, the majority of herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. They’re actually classified as dietary supplements and cosmetics. Unfortunately, this leaves the field wide open for scam artists and Quick Buck Charlie’s” to mass produce and distribute, (usually in China) for no small fee, useless and often harmful snake oils under the guise of miracle cures. Not that I favor FDA/AMA intervention in herbal matters, but I’d love to see the formation of a quorum of responsible herbal manufacturers, those who have gained the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) seal of approval for tight standards and sanitary production conditions, mass together to squeeze these charlatans out of the market permanently.
I do not, in any way, intend to imply that those who fall into the trap of sugar coated promises spewed by these purveyors of useless miracle cures are, in any way, fools. Misguided, perhaps. Reaching for a star? Possibly. It’s hard not to try something that claims to have sold, “Over Six Million Bottles and Counting.” And then there’s that clincher: “Call now before it’s all gone and, with it, your chance to live a longer life! Call in the next thirty seconds and we’ll double your chance for a longer life! Just pay separate processing and handling.”
Before I go any further, let me place a disclaimer here. This blog is not intended to, in any way, shape or form, diagnose or cure any diseases, or make any implications to that effect. I am not a medical doctor and do not claim to be. Common sense dictates that you should never stop taking prescription medications prescribed by a medical doctor for an herbal alternative without consulting your physician first. Always consult a medical professional before beginning any exercise or herbal regimen. Always, always, always research any supplement or holistic remedy you wish to try before taking it. Check for contraindications and possible side effects. Oh, and let me further add that I’m not selling anything here. Relax. This isn’t a sales blog. I do not necessarily endorse any brand’s products, nor have I been offered any compensation for endorsements. I write this for no other reason than to, hopefully, enlighten and share my experiences, including personal experiences from the results of my years long, now tweaked, daily regimen, as well as the results of the many studies I have participated in and conducted.
Did I mention that I’m a voracious researcher of all things medical/herbal?
More to the point, let me state emphatically that herbal remedies are not going to cure the clogged arteries that your doctor says you need to have stented. Nor can they be even remotely considered to be the magical route to take instead of doctor recommended chemotherapy if you’re diagnosed with cancer, (Heaven forbid). If you’ve reached that point, allopathic (traditional) medicine is your only responsible choice, and quite possibly your only chance for continued breath on this side of the sod. By this point, your condition has advanced to a level where your only alternative is advanced, competent, medical intervention. If anyone tries to sell you a bill of goods to convince you otherwise, make sure you have all your affairs in order. In such case, both practitioner and patient, (you) are fools flying down the fast lane to the long dirt nap. Following such advice will never end well.
Herbal supplements are just that: supplements. Their purpose is to enhance your overall wellbeing and, when used responsibly, very possibly help make that transition into your twilight years that much more pleasant and painless. Simply stated, they can, in many cases, help you avoid some future condition by, for instance, strengthening your immune system. This is just one example.
Something that I’m often asked, and that always makes me cringe is this: “But they’re all natural so they can’t hurt me, right?”
For starters, numerous herbal and homeopathic remedies have been proven to interact unfavorably with many prescription medications. This includes, but is not limited to, decreasing the efficacy of the prescription medication. Many others can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. This is just touching the surface of the downsides of uninformed self-medicating. Choosing the wrong combination could be fatal. Keep in mind that almost all prescription medications are a synthesis of herbal remedies. Aspirin, Digitalis, and Opium (to name but a few) were all derived from herbal remedies before they were synthesized. Would you just decide to eat some Foxglove bulbs (known to most as an ornamental plant) from your neighbor’s garden because your heart skipped a beat and your Aunt Gladys said Foxglove was good for that? Another case of your having an idiot for a doctor. Digoxin, an extremely potent drug used to treat cardiac conditions such as atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure, is derived from an extract (digitalis) of the Foxglove plant. The entire plant is toxic. Ingesting it would probably punch your ticket on the Hallelujah Express; yet I have seen Foxglove extract for sale on one of the shadier sites under a different name.
Is any of this making sense?
On the other side of the coin, a responsible herbal regimen, comprised of quality supplements can, without question, help relieve joint aches, add vigor and vitality to your gait, help with memory and depleted vitamin and mineral levels in the aging body, be an excellent sleep aid and many, many other wonderful things.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of 2006 over half of the population of the United States were taking vitamin/mineral/herbal supplements in one form or another. Fifty percent of the people can’t all be wrong. Those fifty percent must be getting some favorable results from supplementation or we wouldn’t be wasting the approximately $4.4 billion dollars per year the National Institutes of Health claims was spent on “dietary supplements” in 2005 alone. I’m sure that amount has increased exponentially in the nine years since these results were compiled.
Let’s face it. We American’s live life in the fast lane. The old days of getting up to a balanced breakfast, stopping for a leisurely, nutritional lunch and sitting with the family for a nice, balanced dinner every night seem to have gone by the wayside. Moms and dads are both out in the work place these days to keep the lights on and food on the table. There just isn’t time! All too many of us are opting for packaged foods, microwave dinners and the everpresent allure of fast foods. Somewhat tasty, but most of it definitely lacking the recommended daily nutritional requirements and filled with fats and fillers that we don’t need. Supplementation has become more of a necessity than a whim.
Want a laugh? I can assure you that if any, older, allopathic doctors are reading this, they’re shaking their heads and tisk-tisking, waving the naughty finger at me as they read. Not because I’ve donned the grass skirt and coconut bra again, but because a great many old-school, mainstream doctors have had the bogus idea that OTC vitamins and minerals are useless and dangerous pounded into their heads from their first day of medical school. Fortunately, modern medical schools now require their students to take classes in herbal medicine, and to become somewhat familiar with the Materia Medica-the bible of herbal and homeopathic medicine. If your doctor is one of those stodgy, old school sawbones, it may be time to find a more enlightened practitioner. The old ways have been proven wrong time and time again. Doubt me? Have you ever seen a Cancer Treatment Center’s of America commercial? Traditional, cutting edge medicine combined with alternative medicine, commonly referred to as CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine). In other words, the whole person, mind, body and spirit, is treated as one. That means the inclusion of all modalities-herbal, homeopathic, spiritual, massage/body work and all other complimentary therapies. I’ve visited their website and was rather impressed with what I read: although I pray none of us ever require their services.
There. I’ve stated my case for this week. I hope that I’ve planted a fertilized seed in your mind regarding herbal supplementation substantial enough to bring you back next week, and for many weeks to follow, as we delve deeper into some of the many viable herbal supplements, vitamins and minerals as well as some suggestions-and some not-so-suggested-thoughts for safe, responsible, herbal supplementation. All in my humble, yet studied, opinion, that is.
In the meantime, if you haven’t been to the see your doctor in a while, make an appointment soon. We no longer have the invincibility we had in our twenties. We’ve reached an age where we should be looking forward to spoiling our grandchildren, contemplating retirement and all the things we want to do when we don’t have to get up every morning and drag ourselves into the office to toil for the man. Medical emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye. “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Having a solid baseline and a thorough assessment now can possibly save you that early heart attack or stroke we all feel gnawing at the fringes of our nightmares as we squeal our slightly worn tires and burn rubber, smoking tail pipes and all, into our twilight years. While you’re there, discuss a responsible supplementation regimen with your doctor. It’s costing you a fortune to be there. Why not get your money’s worth?
Next week we’ll delve into some basic supplementation and a few simple ways to get started. Later on we’ll discuss more specialized supplements you might consider for specific ailments. As is always the case with my blog, the comments section will always be available for you to leave thoughts or opinions, good or bad, or share an opinion. You can also reach me via email should you have a question or comment you’d like to make on a less public forum: firstname.lastname@example.org (the “doc” does not imply medical doctor. It’s a nickname).
Until next week, here’s wishing you good health and a very long lifetime filled with laughter. May all your retirement dreams come true.
Smile, life is grand!
See you next week!