For as long as recorded history has allowed us to look back, natural health remedies have played a major role in the course of human development. While many of these remedies often had no alternative (modern medicine didn’t see its beginnings until the 19th century),they often proved effective. From managing life-threatening chronic conditions to smaller concerns like stimulating hair growth, natural health options can be a powerful tool in your holistic health plan.
Due to high modern healthcare costs and a general distrust of the medical field, they remain a popular alternative to this day.
However, to protect your well-being(and wallet), a healthy amount of skepticism is required when evaluating these options. Let’s explore the potential of home remedies and examine the effectiveness of three popular natural health options:
The Effectiveness of Home Remedies
There is no question that many home remedies have practical applications for a wide range of medical concerns, with scientific explanations for how and why they work. For example:
Aloe can be applied to most types of skin irritation, from minor rashes to burns. It can also be ingested (in small amounts) to help heal irritations in the body such as ulcers.
Garlic, long known to be effective in Indian medicine, has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It supports good cardiovascular health and a strong immune system.
Ginger is another natural remedy that has seen use for thousands of years. Like aloe, it has anti-inflammatory properties. It can help with reducing pain, as well as digestive issues like nausea.
Horse chestnut contains a large amount of esculin—a potent poison. However, its seeds and leaves can be used for a surprising benefit: it can thin your blood. This has a wide range of applications, from helping remove and prevent varicose veins to treating diarrhea or fever.
This is only a small sampling of the countless natural remedies that are proven to be effective by science. In fact,many healthcare professionals are looking for ways to integrate herbal medicine into evidence-based clinical practice. According to a peer-reviewed academic study, “Herbal medicine is becoming increasingly used to enhance general health and well-being, and it is also used alone for specific health problems or with modern medicine.”
Learning to Be Skeptical: Three Examples
Keep in mind, though, that not all-natural remedies are as effective as they are advertised to be. With the rise of alternative health companies and a lack of regulation, it’s important to research alternative health methods and make sure they’re based in fact. Let’stake a deep look into three examples of natural remedies to illustrate why it’s important to stay informed about natural health options.
Essential oils are often used for aromatherapy, though they can also be used topically or ingested, depending on your needs and the type of oil. They can help boost your mood, alleviate stress, and countless other benefits.
However, there is a fair amount of misinformation out there about essential oils. For instance, some people state that using a small amount of specific oils each day can ward off certain illnesses. While essential oils can play a part in your holistic health plan,there can be no guarantee that it will absolutely prevent specific conditions.Another misconception is that consumers should seek out “therapeutic-grade oils” in order to ensure that they are effective. In reality, there is no regulatory body that categorizes oils in this manner; it’s a phrase simply used for marketing purposes.
Essential oil experts at Plant Therapy state that users should do research before buying from any vendor. They ask consumers to consider: “How can you be sure the substance in that little glass bottle is what you think it is? Frankly, you need to purchase oils from a reputable company that can prove, on the spot, precisely where their essential oils are coming from and what the exact chemical constituents are that make it up.” Essential oils can be effective, but consumers need to do their due diligence to ensure that they are getting true benefits from their purchase.
If you’re looking to improve your digestive health, you’ve probably heard about probiotics—supplements that contain “good” bacteria and yeasts that are intended to keep your gut healthy. Some foods, such as yogurt, are advertised as containing this helpful bacteria. Consumers and some independent studies have reported improvements in issues such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections,and some skin conditions. Different products have wildly different compositions, so it can be difficult to evaluate these supplements as a whole.
Speaking of which, some probiotics on the market contain some less-than-desirable ingredients. Manufacturers sometimes use fillers containing allergens like wheat, gluten, or dairy to minimize unused space inside these pills. They also often contain hidden sugar sources (as a means to kick start fermentation), so if you are trying to manage your sugar intake, be mindful. The arguably worst unwanted inclusion in your probiotic is “bad” bacteria strains—those that can worsen digestive issues.
Barring probiotic brands with these problematic inclusions, do they work? While research into probiotics is ongoing, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that, “Some probiotics may help to prevent diarrhea that’s caused by infections or antibiotics. They may also help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.However, benefits have not been conclusively demonstrated, and not all probiotics have the same effects.” Use discretion when buying.
Used as a pain reliever, a tool to stop opioid addiction, and as a recreational experience, kratom is a tree originating from Southeast Asia that has been making waves in recent years.When used in low doses, it can act as a stimulant. In high doses, it can work as a sedative. Kratom leaves can be chewed fresh, turned into a power and consumed (even blended in shakes), or taken in capsules.
A lot of misinformation about kratom stems from legal efforts to schedule it as an illegal drug or ban it at a state level. This legislation is borne from concerns that the substance is addictive,though this is only a concern when users consume it at a level far higher than recommended for medicinal purposes. Critics also often describe plant as having“psychoactive effects,” though this is misleading; kratom can be used as a stimulant, not unlike caffeine, another natural (and legal) substance.
Of course, because legislation surrounding this plant is ongoing, it’s important to be a discerning consumer.There’s no doubt that there is a continued need to research the effects of kratom. A lack of knowledge about the plant has led some authorities to hail it for its properties, while others have denounced it. Once regulations and product standards and implemented in the U.S., consumers will have a better and consistent experience when purchasing kratom.
You may have noted a trend across these examples: while each natural health option can be helpful in a holistic health plan, people need to be careful when selecting products. Because they are not as closely regulated as “modern” medicine, unscrupulous vendors are taking advantage of consumers. By staying informed about your options, you can choose the best options for your needs and ensure that they have the effects that they are advertised to have.
Photo by Melinda Gimpel
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