Are drugs from nature necess. better than drugs from man? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 01-13-2003, 10:51 AM
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I read a lot about the positive side of herbal remedies and the negative side of prescription and over the counter medicines. But herbs are drugs too, and many modern medicines were first derived from plants and nature (penicillian, aspirin, etc.) and are now most likely synthetically produced though still the same chemical.



One benefit of herbs, is that they may contain a multitude of chemicals that interact synergistically. For example, they tried to make from Marijuana adrug called Marinol, a synthetic version of just one of the many chemicals with pharmacological properties. It doesn't work as well as the real thing.



Another is that herbs are not tested on animals. But bc there are fewer studies done on them and they are less regulated, they can also be more dangerous. For example, St. Johns wort happens to interfere with certain drugs (including HIV and cancer drugs I think), and many people didn't know that until it's chemicals were studied. Kava has also been recently found to potentially damage the liver.



But besides that, why should one who is normally opposed to taking "drugs" to cure oneself be OK with taking herbs? They both have pharmacological properties.
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#2 Old 01-13-2003, 04:41 PM
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I agree that if you are categorically opposed to taking drugs to help with illnesses, due to the fact that drugs are "toxic," then if you are not also opposed to "medicinal herbs" you are being absurdly inconsistent -- because they are toxic also -- and this is either a sure sign that you have little or no education in any kind of science whatsoever, or if you do, that you are telling untruths, for the purpose of conning people.



In some cases the synergistic effect of an array of related compounds makes an herb a better choice than its main compound, either isolated, or imitated; in other cases an herb has good and bad compounds, together.



Some herbs are so complex that it is hard to figure out which is better, the whole herb, or the main active element. This applies to opium. The fact that the morphine is mixed with codeine and other morphine-related alkaloids, in my opinion, makes opium, in one way, a better choice than purified morphine. However the fact that that opium also contains meconic acid, a chemical that does little more than make you nauseaus, makes morphine, in one way, a better choice than opium. Perhaps a better solution than having to choose between whole opium, or pure morphine, would be for chemists to simply remove the meconic acid -- this was the first step in the way morphine was isolated in the 1930's -- called the Gregory process -- and serve up the "crude morphine," or "raw morphine" that remains, instead of pure morphine. This is also the first step in the process that illegal heroin producers use today; legal morpine today is made by one of several more complex processes that are more economcial on a larger scale, but too complex for small scale or medium-tech factories. This "raw morphine" of the gregory process contained codeine (the second most prevalent opium alkaloid) as well as morphine, and other alkaloids, as well as various impurities which are harmless if eaten. You can't inject this stuff, but I'd bet it is better for eating than pure morphine, mg for mg. It was always further purified, never sold this way. For no reason except it was the culture of the industrialized world to make "pure" chemicals, if reasonably possible. You can do the gregory process in your kitchen, with "chemicals" that you can buy at any garden center.



Today, however, in regard to senna leaf (as a commercial laxative, the main ingredient in "Swiss Kriss), we do things the medium tech way, in contrast to the high-tech way we deal with the opium poppy fruit. We usually use whole senna leaf, that is, the plain herb, or we use partially refined senna, called "standardized senna concentrate," containing an array of sennasides -- in preference to complete isolation of a single sennaside. I would guess the reason for this is that either it is just too damn impractical and expensive to isolate a single sennaside, or that chemists don't even know the relative potencies of the various alkaloids, or both. Look at the ingredient list on your senna laxative (Senakot). It doesn't list a single isolated chemical; it lists "standardized senna concentrate." Taking Senacot is analgous to taking standardized opium, or standarized poppy tea, rather than taking morphine.



How is opium "standardized?" You mix up a large single homogenous batch of opium, remove a tiny sample and weigh it, isolate the morphine from the sample and weight it -- then you know how much morphine there is in any piece of your homogenous batch. Then you add a filler to the batch, to make it conform to the opium standard of 100 mg of morphine per gram of opium. Senna may be standardized differently -- perhaps using some kind of animal test or tissue test, for acutal laxative ability rather than percent of the main chemical. Because, again, perhaps chemists haven't yet figured out the relative laxative capablilty of each of the dozen or so, i think it is, chemicals, in the sennaside array. And my guess is that each batch of senna leaves may have a different relative amount of the various sennasides. Even each leaf might.



You can also get the benefit of morphine by making tea out of crumbled, dry poppy fruits (called poppy straw when supplied with a few feet of attached stem). I'm not really sure if opium is a better choice, or poppy straw tea is a better choice. The comparison is just too complex. Poppy straw tea, like opium, contains meconic acid, plus other awful chemicals that opium doesn't have.



Again in my mind, neither plain poppy fruits, nor isolated morphine, is the best choice for pain relief, control of non-productive (dry) coughs, or prevention of accumulation of fluid in the lungs due to heart attack, or diareah -- the traditional main uses of morphine, until 50 years ago. In my opinion the best choice is something in between.



These days morphine is rarely used for coughs or diarhea. A synthetic opioid which relieve coughs but has very little affect on pain, is commonly prescribed (dextromethorphan). It's molecule is very similar to the morphine molecule, but it is just about useless for pain, by itself -- but one peculiar thing -- take it along with morphine, and it makes the same amount of morphine relieve more pain. Same thing for diarhea -- loperamide has replaced morphine. It is uselss for analgesia. I don't think it improves the analgesic effect or morphine tho. I wonder whether morphine may improve the anti-dire-real effect of loperamide?
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#3 Old 01-13-2003, 05:38 PM
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Herbs are so different from each other. My standpoint is too much of ANYTHING is a bad thing. For instance........Chamomile: You can develop an allergy to ragweed, and if you already have an allergy to ragweed, you will have allergic reactions. However, you will not develop an allergy if you use it occasionally. Also, guess what else is considered an herbal remedy.....parsley, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic, licorice, ginger, alfalfa, rosemary....etc.



An excerpt from "Healthy Healing", under the chapter Herbal Healing......"Two-thirds of the drugs on the American market today are based on medicinal plants. But modern herb-based drugs are not herbs; they are chemicals. Even when a drug is derived from an herb, it is so refined, isolated and purified that only a chemical formula remains. Chemicals work in our bodies far differently than herbs. Chemical drugs cause many effecs-only some of which are positive. "

"Taking herbs all the time is like eating large quantities of food all the time. The body tends to have imbalanced nourishment forom nutrients that are not in that food. This is also true of multiple vitamins."

"If you are taking an herbal remedy for more than a month, discontinue for one or two weeks between months to let your body adjust and maintain your personal balance."



My standpoint is that if you educate yourself and make sure that you're taking herbs correctly and not for long periods of time, is that you will not have side effects. Also, most herbs help your body to use it's own strength to fight an illness or problem, to the point where you don't need the herb anymore. With conventional drugs, there's all those scary side effects (some worse than the original problem), and in most cases the drug is taken on a regular basis or switched to a just as damaging one.



Herbs have been used in China for 5,000 years, in India for 6,000 and Native American have been using them as well (I don't know how long). If the herbs were causing any major problems like conventional drugs tend to do.......we would have heard about it after 5 to 6,000 years.
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#4 Old 01-13-2003, 06:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Herself

My standpoint is too much of ANYTHING is a bad thing.

I second that emotion. Furthermore, I think that the myriad medical professionals who have a bad attitude towards "alternative" medical practices are as naive as those who deny the many "miracles" of modern medicine.



The only decent accupuncturist I've ever been to out of many had an integrated approach to medecine, combining massage therapy, accupuncture, PT, and yes, OTC drugs. All the others denounced OTCs and were very certain that any other therapy would interfere with their treatments. They all bit.



Likewise, the doctors I saw when I had cancer were, of course, all focusing on modern western treatments, but the main oncologist who treated me was very receptive to my rather intensive herbal treatments and dietary/fasting program that I worked out with an independant nutritionalist. I don't have any doubt that it was the modern synthetic drugs that are to thank for my survival, but to some degree, if only for the drastic improvements in comfort during the treatment, the "alternative" aspects of my treatment were also vital.



My point: Neither modern science nor traditional and "alternative" medecines can ever hope to heal to a degree that would be seen if there was a full and complete openness between proponents of both sides.
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#5 Old 01-13-2003, 11:53 PM
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I totally agree with you Max Power. To completely shun an entire field of medicine, no matter what field, is ignorant. I've heard so many stories where people have healed themselves using natural remedies leaving their doctors baffled......and the doctors don't even ask what they've done so they can pass it on to others. You're name is a Simpsons reference, no?
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#6 Old 01-14-2003, 07:35 AM
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Herself writes:

==============

I totally agree with you Max Power. To completely shun an entire field of medicine, no matter what field, is ignorant. I've heard so many stories where people have healed themselves using natural remedies leaving their doctors baffled......and the doctors don't even ask what they've done so they can pass it on to others

===============



Doctors have a culture where they believe it is preferable to only use medicines that have been written up in the medical journals used by their discipline. And these only publish article about the results of empirical studies carried out by those with credentials in the sciences. A little about herbs has been published this way, not a lot. Doctors tend to avoid prescribing herbs if they only have anecdotal reports of their efficacy, and safety to go on.



But even if there is credentialed empirical studies, if the substance can be bought without a prescription, there may be little economic incentive for doctors to know about it, or think about being prepared to find out about such things. Especially with the internet, today, making info so easy to disseminate, and collect, doctors may think that people won't need them, that if someone gets a disorder, they can do their own research, and bypass going to a doctor. And why shouldn't they? That is, go to the doctor perhaps, just to see what the doctor has to say -- but rely on one's own research for one's treatment. You can look it up yourself on the internet as easily as the doctor can. Doctors know that.



I am not saying we should make herbs illegal to buy sell unless prescribed. Perhaps it is better if we just bypass doctors in certain situations. There are things that doctors are useful for -- like trauma treatment and trauma surgery -- and things that oneself, or others, might be useful for. Why should we expect doctors to prescribe herbs? They don't pretend to be all-purpose all-around healers. They are specialists in several narrow kinds of healing, and admittedly so.
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#7 Old 01-14-2003, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Herself

I totally agree with you Max Power. To completely shun an entire field of medicine, no matter what field, is ignorant. I've heard so many stories where people have healed themselves using natural remedies leaving their doctors baffled......and the doctors don't even ask what they've done so they can pass it on to others. You're name is a Simpsons reference, no?



I agree, there are probably a lot of therapies out there that physicians just don't know about. It's also important to note that bc people with life threatening diseases are so desparate, that they are vulnerable to charlatans, (who may or may not believe in their own alternative therapy), and we don't hear stories about all the people who die from cancer anyway, despite alternative therapies. If I had cancer I probably would use some alternative therapies in conjunction with traditional methods (or maybe instead of, who knows). But I would be very careful before giving up traditional cancer therapy.
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#8 Old 01-14-2003, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Herself

You're name is a Simpsons reference, no?

Indeed. I'm Trent Steele's oldest and dearest friend



Thal - just for clarification - at the time, it didn't even dawn on me that the herbal treatments I was working with would help in fighting the actual cancer, I just did it to help with the side-affects. After the first treatment, the drugs you have to take coupled with the chemo, itself, are so devistating to the system; my body was so worn out I couldn't get out of bed for 2 days and when I did it was like walking through jello. The "alternative" treatments after that included a rice-fast and herbal cleansing for 3 days before through 1 day after a chemo treatment and a ton of supplements to help recover for the 5 days after. I was blown away by the difference. The day after my second treatment, I went to work like normal and even went to the gym to play basketball.



This is where I'd normally go off on my "legalize medical marijuana" tangent, but I digress...



Soil - don't you think that there is also a problem with the politicalization of medical journals? What I mean is, there ARE journals dedicated to eastern, alternative, hollistic, and so on, but because they don't come out of Hopkins or Harvard Med. then they're not taken seriously because to do so would diminish the old boy reputation in the western medical society. Not to mention that all such progress is so grossly held back by the insurance companies who want repeat customers and not law suits?
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#9 Old 01-14-2003, 08:31 PM
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MaxPower writes:

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Soil - don't you think that there is also a problem with the politicalization of medical journals? What I mean is, there ARE journals dedicated to eastern, alternative, hollistic, and so on, but because they don't come out of Hopkins or Harvard Med. then they're not taken seriously because to do so would diminish the old boy reputation in the western medical society. Not to mention that all such progress is so grossly held back by the insurance companies who want repeat customers and not law suits?

======================



Well, first, let me assure you that I am just as cynical about what J Hopkins or Harvard Med, in cahoots with the military-industrial power weilders, are realy up to, as anyone. But I'm also cynical about what the holistic journals are publishing. To me, if the journal recommends treatments with herbs or purified medicines, with descriptions of what is involved, and then backs their recommendations with an abundance of empirical evidence, then I think it has more value than just descriptions of what is involved, when the only backing is that "this is how I learned it from my esteemed teacher, who learned it from his esteemed teacher." And this is what most of eastern medicine appears to be to me. There are no descriptions of the patients getting the med, as compared to patients not getting the med, or getting some other med instead (controlled experiments). However I like to be skeptical about the controlled experiements done by harvard, too. They have charming ways of putting a "spin" on the description of their results, that make the results appear more valuable than I would think they really are. Take your typical antihistamine for relief of sneezing. If they start counting sneezes and sneezes per person, in a medicated group and a control group, and conclude that drugA is effective because the lessening of sneezes was "significant" -- what they really mean is "statistically signficant " -- and I'm not gonna take drugA in order to be pretty certain that I'll have only 25 sneezes a day instead of 30. Not that I dislike sneezing to begin with. I like sneezing.



The fact that something like this is scientifical -- in reality, that doesn't nec mean it is really useful or valuable. It's bullcrap to earn them money.



But I tend to think the same thing about alternative medicine. Most practitioners are worse than useless, are cashing in on people's desparation, but without really helping them. The only "alternative" medicine that I think is really helpful is simply making a great effort to dig up information, and find your own path, without using any "practitioner" at all other than your own research and knowledge. Cutting thru all the bull**** coming from all sides.
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#10 Old 01-15-2003, 08:10 AM
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Don't worry Max, I wasn't in any way criticizing your cancer treatment. I was thinking more of people who are terminally ill with very little hope and give all their money to some guy with some snake oil, or people who are reckless in deciding to give up on traditional treatment at all (not even to imply that anyone who doesn't do traditional is reckless).
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#11 Old 01-15-2003, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Thalia

For example, St. Johns wort happens to interfere with certain drugs (including HIV and cancer drugs I think



and influences the birth-control pills.
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#12 Old 01-15-2003, 02:59 PM
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I have a general problem with the word "natural." Generally, I understand it to mean derived from nature, but everything, even isolated manufactured chemicals, at some point were derived from nature. My question is, at what point is something derived from nature, no longer "natural"?



The FDA, which regulates dietary supplements, does not define dietary supplements, even herbs, in relation to what is "natural." As a result, I don't think "natural" is at all a useful term.
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#13 Old 01-15-2003, 03:55 PM
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I dont think so. I think most drugs have positive and negetavie effects.
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#14 Old 01-16-2003, 10:54 AM
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lc writes:

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I dont think so. I think most drugs have positive and negetavie effects

==================



Thing is tho, what is a positive effect in one situation, can be a negative effect in another. So I think it is better to say that drugs, natural or artificial, have a range of effects that need to be taken into consideration, in addition to the effect you are looking for.



For example codeine will slow down peristalisis and increase water absorption from the colon and cause thicker stools. If you have dire-rear, this is a positive effect; if you have constipation, this is a negative effect. Further, if you take codein to relieve pain, its effect on your stools can be positive or negative, depending on your pre-existing situation, and these additional affect should be taken into consideration when using codeine to treat pain, not just its effects on pain.
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#15 Old 01-16-2003, 10:55 AM
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A "natural" substance is any substance that isn't "supernatural."
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