I grew up in a medical family and topics around the dinner table often had to do with things people outside the medical community might find a bit gross. An amputated limb here, a pregnant woman that wasn’t hygienic before finding herself in a delivery room there…maybe something about a boil or sexually transmitted disease waaaay over there…the topics ran the health and wellness gamut.
As I grew up, those topics eventually encompassed issues of debate within the medical community itself and became, shall we say, much more refined. Dinner table discussions soon broached the subjects of alternative medicine vs. Western medicine.
My aunt is a pediatrician, and my mother was a nurse (now a professor with a doctorate in nursing education) and they both encouraged us to examine natural ways of healthy living. They had discussions revolving around conventional, Western medicine versus what was considered then to be wild, risky and controversial holistic healing methods.
I was often party to those conversations and though I decided on a career path as an artist and rejected a profession in medicine, the observations that have continued to be made around the family dinner table have had an effect on me.
Who doesn’t want to be more in control of their health and to know exactly what the medications they’ve been prescribed are doing to their bodies? Becoming informed therefore, is essential.
With modern medicine filled with examples of drugs that have harmed or killed the patients they were intended to help… the “accepted” medical community continues to look down on alternative, natural supplements that may have the same benefits as the prescription drug…but with little to no side effects.
It doesn’t seem to me that there is any question that the roots of controversy between alternative and Western medicine go back thousands of years. That argument which started off as largely philosophical in nature has carried on up until the present day. Now, one of the largest issues proponents of Western medicine bring against their alternative medicine counterparts in general (and herbal or botanical medicine specifically) has to do with what medical pundits decry as alternative medicine’s significant lack of documented, double blind clinical studies.
For those that don’t know, “a double blind study is a clinical trial design in which neither the participating individuals nor the study staff knows which participants are receiving the experimental drug and which are receiving a placebo (or another therapy). Double-blind trials are thought to produce objective results, since the expectations of the doctor and the participant about the experimental drug do not affect the outcome; also called double-masked study.” (“Glossary.” Clinicaltrials.gov. March 18, 2008. Web)
In 2011, with over 15,298 scientific papers published on just 5 herbs and trace elements, there is plenty of substantiated, scientific evidence in favor of alternative medicine’s claims. Unfortunately, without the funding to conduct the FDA mandated double blind clinical studies, alternative medicines are unable to compete with FDA approved pharmaceuticals. Much of this has to do with antiquated, U.S. patent laws. I’ll get into that issue next time when I also want to take a look at comparative side effects of conventional medicines versus alternative supplements.