Complementary Medicine


Many modern medicines are derived from natural products such as plants, so it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that plants themselves can have pharmacological effects. In the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, for example, the spice saffron has been found to work better than a placebo and just as well as a leading drug. Purslane has been shown to successfully treat the symptoms of oral lichen planus. Consuming rosehips may significantly reduce the pain associated with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Flax may help prevent breast cancer, reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, and treat hot flashes and enlarged prostates. Indian gooseberries may be effective in preventing cancer. Nontoxic coconut oil emulsion shampoo works better to kill head lice than the standard insecticide treatment and eliminating artificial colorings may decrease impulsivity, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity in children. In a ranking of anti-oxidant activity among herbal teas, dandelion tea has the highest levels followed by rosehip, chamomile, lemongrass, and honeybush teas. Chamomile tea was shown to be effective in slowing the growth rates of various cancers in a petri dish. Among all teas, green tea has among the highest antioxidant levels and may help prevent cancer and even the common cold. Many nutritional supplements have been found to be useless or worse, though one might not know this speaking to health store employees who often lack the training to offer sound advice (see here, here, and here). Mangosteen juice, licorice, distilled cod liver oil, and Herbalife® supplements may all have adverse health effects. Though chlorella do not contain neurotoxins, spirulina and blue-green algae supplements might. . Ayurvedic medicine has been found to be contaminated with lead and toxic heavy metals (see also here, here). JuicePlus may be nothing more than an overpriced vitamin supplement that may even cause liver inflammation. Airborne supplements have been shown to be no better than a placebo in boosting immune response. Nasal irrigation using neti pots can be an effective treatment for sinus infections but should be sterilized between uses (with boiling water or microwaving). The current scientific consensus is that homeopathy is ineffective in treating ADHD, asthma, cancer, dementia, influenza, or in inducing labor. It also may actually be dangerous in large doses on infants.

Topic summary contributed by Sue.

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