By Richard Labaki
“I would not be recommending to you this nutritional supplement had I not personally used it and thoroughly researched its therapeutic benefits,” is a phrase I often repeat to clients who are hesitant about taking vitamins, minerals or herbal extracts. Though more and more people are becoming aware of the efficacy and relative safety of many nutritional supplements, some remain uncomfortable about popping pills on daily basis. And I am always allaying their concerns by explaining that the right nutritional supplements (made by reputable companies) are worth ingesting and are not to be equated with pharmaceutical drugs.
Moreover, seeing how some orthodox medicine doctors are becoming curious about nutritional supplements is intriguing. But I am not holding my breath that soon they would substitute pharmaceutical drugs with nutritional supplements in helping their patients with health conditions like arthritis, high blood sugar, hypertension and others. Truth of the matter is many medical doctors – some of whom are good friends of mine – view supplements with suspicion or simple disregard. Their argument is always the same: Supplements are not scientifically proven to be effective in terms of inducing health and preventing diseases. And they could be potentially dangerous. Nothing puts a big smile on my face more than hearing this deeply flawed argument, which I easily debunk through a twofold response.
It is funny how we humans have a tendency to reach conclusions about serious issues without even bothering to acquire the necessary facts. This for me would be labelled as mental laziness. Thousands of studies regarding various herbs, nutrients, vitamins and minerals have been conducted by renowned scientists, institutes and universities across the world. For example, the health benefits of vitamin C have been documented in over 18,000 studies! And as for the “potentially dangerous” part, I say that supplements are very safe – at the very least far safer than pharmaceutical drugs! I mean, read the pamphlet of any medication and check out the numerous side effects that it could cause.
In contrast, I challenge anyone to prove to me that someone died or went to hospital due to a complication caused by vitamin C or Omega 3 supplementation. That is not to say that the administration of supplements should not be organized and that any supplement brand will do. Yes, there are lousy brands out there that do not employ proper manufacturing practices and do not test their raw material for contamination. And yes, some people might not react well to a specific herb or nutrient – especially if used wrongly or randomly. But at the end of the day, the side effects are usually light and go away the moment one stops using the supplement. The complications caused by pharmaceutical drugs, on the other hand, are usually far more severe (many of which are often irreversible.)
Take for example acetaminophen, which is marketed under various names. Sold as over-the-counter medication (meaning no doctor’s prescription is needed) as a pain reliever, acetaminophen is known to cause serious liver problems. Sometimes, and if taken in high dosages, the damage is so severe that death may occur or a liver transplantation becomes necessary! And guess what doctors at the emergency room administer when someone is admitted due to acetaminophen poisoning? They use N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine or NAC. This is a natural compound sold as a nutritional supplement to boost liver function and help the body in the detoxification process. Ironic, don’t you think!
And this brings me to another equally important point. Most medical doctors frown upon nutritional supplements and herbal extracts. Yet, most of them fail to realize that there are more than 110 prescription drugs based purely on plant and herbal extracts! Below is a small sample:
· Sisal: Steroids and cortisone were first isolated from this plant
· Meadow Saffron: The source of colchicine, which is used to treat gout and cancer
· Foxglove: The source of heart disease medications
· Woolly Foxglove: Used in treating cerebral malaria
· Melilot: Anti-coagulant drugs used to control thrombosis are developed from this plant
· Opium Poppy: Produces narcotic painkillers, including common codeine
· Thorn Apple: Used for asthma and Parkinson’s disease
· Belladonna: Used to dilate pupils in sight-saving eye surgery
· Feverfew: Used in the treatment of migraine
· Ginger: Relieves the symptoms of nausea, especially morning sickness
· Evening Primrose Oil: Used to alleviate PMS and eczema
· Meadowsweet: The aspirin compound “acetyl-salicylic acid” was isolated from this plant in 1827.
So as you can see, modern medicine owes a lot to Mother Nature. Our health owes a lot to the various plants, vegetables, fruits, roots, seeds and nuts that the Earth provides. And by adopting the natural approach to health (eating the right food and taking the right herbs), one could work on healing the body in a more holistic fashion – instead of simply trying to mask the symptoms. It is my humble belief that all the cures for our modern day diseases could be found in healthy food and herbal remedies. And ongoing scientific research is making this conviction more solid every day. I sometimes ponder the notion that only five percent of the plant species have actually been examined for pharmacological activity – imagine that! And so I will continue recommending nutritional supplements that are backed by extensive research and manufactured by reputable companies. Actually, I have a confession to make. I personally use anywhere from six to eight different supplements every day for better energy, mood, focus and overall well-being. I am addicted to being healthy and some addictions are just worth keeping!
If you found this article interesting, please "share" and "like". And feel free to leave your comments/questions below - I would love to hear your opinion and answer your questions.