Thursday, May 28, 2009

Herbal Medicine

My neighbor, Marcy, had been bugging me to try herbal medicine. But I didn't see any reason to try it -- I never get sick and besides, don't prescription medicines work?  Then my month-old daughter got thrush.  "Try herbs," said Marcy. I took my daughter to an MD. He wrote out a prescription. I paid for the drugs and fed them to my daughter.  The thrush got worse, for several days in a row. I called the doc. He didn't call back. My husband looked up the drug we'd been prescribed in the Physician's Desk Reference Manual.  The PDR specifically said NOT to prescribe that drug for thrush.
I went to Marcy and borrowed her herb book. She had Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. It recommended Golden Seal Root Powder to treat thrush. I bought $1 worth at the local herb store. After 1 treatment, I could see that the white fungus was retreating. After 3 days, there was no more thrush in my daughter's mouth.
It took a while for me to start to trust herbs -- I filled a few more prescriptions after that. Some worked. Some didn't. And then I bought an herb book.  The Herb Book by John Lust. That was about 40 years ago. Now, I try herbs first.  No need to wait until morning, get an appointment, go to a pharmacy, wait around to get a prescription filled. I have small jars with the most common herbs in the house now, and I know where to buy what I need. No prescription required. Herbs have become part of my life, like brushing my teeth, washing my hands, exercising.
So, I was taken by surprise at lunch yesterday when a friend told me that herbs are unreliable. You can't know from one plant to the next exactly what you are getting. So what? If one cup of tea doesn't do the job, I can always drink another cup.
Herbal teas are quick and easy to prepare.  A friend was complaining of bladder infection, so I made her a pot of peach leaf and cubeb berry tea. She drank the whole thing.  Then she commented, "I guess I was wrong. I don't have an infection after all."
I'm not advocating taking herbs if they might conflict a prescription medicine you are already taking.  But, if like me, you rarely get sick, aren't taking daily drugs, and want a quick treatment with a likely chance of success, herbs are worth trying. If they don't work, you can always call the doc. Mrs. Grieve's Modern Herbal is available free online: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html
It is searchable. If you want more in depth information, I recommend John Lust's The Herb Book. It has a good list of side-effects and counter-indications.  Herbs have been used for thousands of years. Many modern prescription medicines are based on them. And bottom line -- they work. My friend who thinks herbs don't work then asked me what to do when her hip arthritis hurts after a long walk.  I told her what I do. Add  1/2 teaspoon of turmeric to a small glass of orange juice. Whir in the blender and drink. Within an hour the pain is gone. And if you drink this concoction before your walk, you won't be in pain at the end of it.  

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