Of course it’s safe… It’s natural!

One of the things that a lot of the alternative medicine, holistic, naturopathic, etcetera people will tell you is that the “mainstream” medicine people don’t want you to try anything that is natural because it will affect their bottom line. Some will even take it a step further and tell you that their “treatments” are completely safe because they’re natural, that they have no side effects whatsoever. Or that the side effects are minimal when compared to what “Western” medicine has to offer.

Guess what? They’re not lying.

They’re not lying when they tell you that an herbal remedy is safer than science/evidence-based medicine. They’re lying when they tell you that something is more effective when there is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. They actually stand there and sell you a treatment that, although safe, is not effective, or has never been proven to be effective.

And you buy it because you’re desperate, because the medicine from a physician is expensive, or because you had some unpleasant side effects. You buy it because they – the natural remedy sellers – gathered together anecdotes of people and presented them to you as data. You also buy it because your brain biases the so-called evidence they present and make you think that someone getting over the flu after five days of taking a remedy is some sort of a miracle and not just simple, everyday “return to the mean” bias on your part.

The sad part is when people with some very serious conditions forgo treatments based on science and evidence and buy into treatments and remedies that have never been shown to work. The buy into something that – because it is labeled as natural – seems to be good for you. There is a difference between something that is not bad for you and something that is good for you. There really is.

On the other hand, I will be the first one to admit that those people who enjoy a lifestyle aimed toward natural things – like eating more fruits and veggies, drinking more water than soda – those people really do have a lower incidence of certain diseases and conditions. However, if they do fall ill to an infection or some other disease, no amount of herbs and spices will “cure” them. I’m yet to see turmeric and basil be an effective treatment for cancer. (Then again, I might be oversimplifying their approach.)

For some of you out there, there is not much I can say to stop you from believing in or even trying the “all natural” path to cure a disease or condition. You’ll be convinced that the lack of serious side effects from a plant or salt somehow make it effective. The flipside is that you you’ll think that the side effects of a safe and effective medication somehow means that it’s the work of the Devil. To those of you that believe this, I have nothing more to say.

To the rest of you, I’ll let you know that any healthcare provider worth their weight in salt will be more than happy to discuss “alternative medicine” with you, the pros and cons, and even discuss how it can be integrated into your regular care. This is especially important if the remedies you want to try may possibly interfere with any medication you’re already taking. So go have that chat and put down the remedy. It will still be there when you get back.

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