Diving Back into the Swamp!

by Jeanine Adinaro on April 12, 2010

in Chinese Herbs, General Health

Are there gators in there?

Are there gators in there?

This article reviews a survey of physicians, most of whom are in the UK, about their perception of their own understanding and attitudes about herbs. Try not to be too shocked here, but generally, they don’t like herbs, they don’t know anything about herbs, and most of all, they don’t want their patients taking herbs. To be fair, I added the emphasis on that last bit. But in looking at the underlying survey results, it’s not terribly inaccurate.

My personal favorite part is in the article:

Michael McIntyre chairs the European Herbal Practitioners Association and is a member of the UK Department of Health Herbal Medicine Regulatory Working Group. In an accompanying DTB podcast, he exposed doctors’ belief that familiarization with herbs is somehow a retrogressive step.

He explains that before the beginning of modern medicine, ailments were often treated with herbs, suggesting that doctors feared being ‘pulled back into the swamp.’

I think he’s spot on with that description. Somehow we, and it’s not just physicians, it’s all of us health care consumers, have gotten it in our heads that if we use traditional health remedies, it’s somehow moving backwards. Medicine and health don’t seem to be exempt from the desire to have something sleeker, faster, and more maneuverable.

Assuming that like myself, though initially pulled towards things when you find out there’s an app for that, you eventually come to and wander back to the swamp, what to do about health care providers that don’t want you using traditional remedies?

  • Tell your doctor or health care provider about everything you take- herbs, vitamins, OTC drugs, all of it
  • If your doctor tells you to stop taking your remedy of choice, ask why. If he doesn’t give you an answer past “Because I don’t know what it is” or “Because it hasn’t been proven to work” or “Because herbs aren’t regulated” then encourage him to engage you in a further conversation. Explain what it is, why you think it works for you, that herbs are regulated just not in the same way as pharmaceuticals, and why you would like to continue taking it.
  • If your herbs have been prescribed to you by another health care provider, encourage your doctor to carve 5 minutes out of his very important life to talk on the phone with that person. Don’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen, because to be fair, most doctors won’t even talk to each other about the care of common patients.
  • Finally, if you really can’t convince your doctor to get on board with your herbal program, then get a new doctor.

These steps are a lot of work. And they may be unpleasant at times. But it’s far better to work through them than to not tell your doctor what you are taking only to have a bad drug-herb interaction that the doctor will then shrug off as, “She never told me she was drinking swamp water.”

Photo by Matt Lancashire

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