All humans have health problems at one time or another; it’s one of the certainties of life. When we feel ill, we often use medicines to help us to feel better. Sometimes these medicines are manmade (1), while at other times they come from nature. If both are available, then why use natural products when we have manmade products that work equally as well, if not better? We’re going to explore the answer to this question below.
1. Mother Nature often knows best: as with most things in life, mum usually knows best, and in this case, it’s Mother Nature herself that has the solution to many health problems. There is evidence of life as far as 3.5 billion years ago, and that is when our journey began. We have evolved over billions of years to be perfectly adaptable to our environment. In a sense, everything that is good for us comes from nature – the vitamins, the proteins, the carbohydrates: they all contribute to good health.
There are many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that contain the necessary ingredients (e.g. minerals and vitamins) to cure our ailments. Modern scientific medicine is born from the traditional health remedies that our ancestors have used for thousands of years. In fact, many of our modern medicines come from natural substances; aspirin, for example, comes from the bark of certain trees and other plants. Other modern medicines are created in laboratories, but their chemical compositions mimic those of natural products.
Mother Nature informs modern medicine, and there are some medicines that she creates better than we do, so it makes sense to use these natural products where possible.
2. Natural health products can be cheaper than medicine: because they’re natural, these products require less processing than their synthetic or manmade alternatives. There are several benefits in terms of cost:
a. Less processing means less energy, thereby saving money in manufacturing – this also has the added benefit that it has less impact on the environment.
b. They are easier to cultivate, thereby saving money regarding the sourcing of materials. You may assume that modern medicine is cheaper in some instances, for example, for depression a prescription for SSRIs is cheaper for the user than a decent blend of St John’s Wort. However, these prescriptions are subsidised by the NHS, and an SSRI may actually be more expensive than the cost of prescription.
3. Natural health products often have a reduced side effect profile: it is often (but not always) the case that health products have fewer side effects than modern medicines. This is usually the case because we are unable to create products as carefully as evolution has been able to do (well, it’s had 3.5 billion years of experience while humans have only a few hundred years of experience in making medicine – although evolution hasn’t actively done this of course).
It is important that you research the natural health products and its side effect profile before you take it. This is because, as we said above, they often have fewer side effects, but this isn’t always the case.
4. Natural health products have fewer interactions with other medicines: again, it is often the case that natural remedies have fewer interactions with other health remedies and medicines. This can offer a distinct advantage in some cases. For example, a person may have an illness that requires too types of medicine, but within modern medicine the available products interact. Substituting one of these products with a natural remedy can offer the solution, and indeed, this combination is something that the medical community advocates and uses.
Again, make sure that you do your research when considering a natural health supplement to ensure that it does not interact with other medicines. Some natural remedies, such as St John’s Wort, are well known to interact with other medicines.
5. The introduction fewer chemicals into the environment: because the products are derived from nature, we are not adding any dangerous chemicals to our environment, but simply using things that already exist. However, with modern medicines we often create new strains and new chemical compositions and mixtures. This can have unforeseen and dangerous consequences. There are very few concerns of this nature with natural health products.