Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Return to Folk Medicine

In our society of convenience, where services (most are redundant, though) are becoming increasingly available at the click of a button, we have come to expect instant cures for illness and minor complains, typically in a bottle (some patients, cocktail of colorful) of pills, at the end of a needle, or under a laser beam.

In the wake of present technology it is easy to forget that Nature , Mother Nature, offers a rich source of remedies for the human body, mind, and spirit, which work without the side-effects often associated with conventional medicine.

Animal-based food comes with cholesterol; plant-based food comes with phytoesterol.

The patient's role, particularly in Asia, has always been a predominantly passive one, handing over the responsibility for our recovery to a greater authority, one whose medical qualifications are widely respected. This attitude, though still prevalent, is changing: faced with a life-threatening illness, or even a relatively minor one, more of us are taking responsibility for ourselves, finding out how our bodies work, physiology, what we need to do to maintain optimum health, whether manufactured drugs will cause us greater damage/miseries than our original complaints, and how changing our way we think will have a direct bearing on what happen to us physically.

More importantly, increasing numbers of us are doing this before illness strikes. This is a major paradigm shift for world societies that have hitherto promoted disease care rather than health care.

Why wait to become ill when, with real knowledge, holistic application, and dedication, we can prevent illness and live longer, healthier, and happier lives?

Recent food scares, such as the BSE ("mad cow" disease caused by human-scientists) crisis in the world, have also prompted people to consider more seriously what they eat and how this has an impact on their health.

Incidences of stroke, cancers, and rheumatoid arthritis, younger age patients, are all on the increase, may cases of which could be avoided or prevented, if not alleviated, through informed, nutritional approaches.

The real benefits of traditional folk medicine, based on the healing powers of plants, fresh herbs yielding seed, fresh fruits bearing seeds, were largely lost to us once medical science and big businesses began to dominate health care.

While this knowledge is currently being rediscovered and repackaged to suit a more discriminating customers, this shift in treatment is slow and not without its opponents and cynics. However, they should not exaggerate the extent to which recent advances in medical science have prolonged and enhanced our lives, for the average life expectancy in the West has risen by only 2 years since the 1920s.

Why modern medicine has not extended our life spans further can be explained in part by its general approach to health care:
it focuses primarily on treating the symptoms of an illness rather than its cause, often suppressing a condition that later re-emerges as a more serious illness, compounding the side-effects, or causing side-condition.

Perhaps it is time for the westerners to review its general approach to human medicine.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician, from whose name the contemporary medical profession, veterinarian is excepted, takes its Hippocratic oath, taught his students to treat the whole person , not just the disease, to consider lifestyle and habits, and to encourage and empower with real knowledge the innate capacity of the human body to heal itself.

This holistic approach can still be seen in modern homeopathy and other alternative practices, modern orthodox medicine being more inclined to isolate the symptoms.

Ironically Hippocrates' treatments, which included massage with essential oils, hydrotherapy, water drinking, plenty of fresh air and sunlight, non-air conditioned, exercise, and wholesome food, were so effective that the philosopher Plato complained that people were living too long.

Gradually his philosophy of relying on Nature's healing force to cure illness was forgotten or hijacked by interest parties, particularly with the development of organic chemistry in the 18th and 19th centuries,

Even when modern medicine uses plants as a base for new drugs by synthetically producing the active constituents of plants, the impurities or apparently
of non-active constituents of a plant, which often play an essential role in assisting and easing the absorption of natural plant chemicals in the human body, are lost. These additional ingredients can also protect against exceeding the body's tolerance levels of any one particular compound, thereby mitigating otherwise unpleasant side-effects. For example, ephedrine, isolated from the Chinese herb, Ephedra sinica, was once marketed as a drug for asthma. By itself, the chemical was found to raise blood pressure to dangerous levels and has consequently been largely withdrawn from circulation. However, i its crude form, this same plant has been used in China for thousands of years with no harmful side-effects.

The pharmaceutical industry's reluctance to promote natural remedies can be better understood in terms of economics: botanic medicines cannot be patented, whereas synthetic drugs can be patented and increase profit taking. It is these patented medicines that earn companies vast sums of money, regardless of the fact that synthetic drugs are unable fully to replicate the effects of the equivalent natural plant medicine and are not as easily absorbed into the human body.

There is so much more to plants than providing us with essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Allicin, found in garlic, onions, and leeks, lower blood cholesterol and protects against many cancers, due to plant alkaline effect in the body internal environment.

Alpha carotene in carrots and seaweed boosts the body immune system.

Beta carotene, found in dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits, eaten raw, non cook, reduces the risk of numerous cancers.

Lycopene in red and orange fruits such as apricots, red grapefruit, and tomatoes protects against age-related cell damage.

Tannins found in certain plants such as willow, witch-hazel, and oak, have astringent and natural antiseptic properties that help diarrhoea, mouth infections, and slow-healing wounds.

Triterpenoid saponins - found in ginseng and wild yam - act as precursors to the sex hormones.

Fortunately, with a greater scientific understanding of plants and natural remedies, it is becoming increasingly common for people to use a honey-based syrup as a cough remedy or apple-cider vinegar and lemon to soothe a wasp sting - just as it was before manufactured drugs-poison became more widely available.
Not so much old wives' tales, but old, wise advice. Be wise to safeguard your own healthy wealth: water cures: drugs kill.

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