The New Alternative – Integration
With healthcare costs and prescription drug related deaths on the rise, and opioid addictions a huge concern for doctors and pharmacists nationwide, we can’t afford not to look for safer, cheaper, more effective healthcare solutions. Integrating plant-based solutions is the answer. We can get the best, most cost-effective solutions when we combine all we have learned in modern medicine and the best of home remedies and folk medicine. Informed, educated parents and patients, as well as well-rounded physicians who have all the resources available to meet their patient’s challenge can partner to achieve wellness, rather than just treat disease.
Modern medicine has great value and we are all blessed by the advancements in the surgical fields. If your body is broken and needs to be put back together, you want the surgeons in the US putting their collective knowledge to work for you. Orthopedists, heart surgeons, plastic and maxillo-facial surgeons can bring people back to normal function and appearance after disastrous accidents. That they can take your organs out, repair them, and replace them is amazing enough, but the surgeries performed laparoscopically, through tiny incisions in the skin, but involving major repairs, are almost miracles. If you need surgery, be grateful to be living in the USA.
Medicines have also seen many advances in recent years. Many prescription medicines had their roots in plants, but now individual compounds are isolated, then made synthetically, so they are patentable. This allows the companies who invest in research and development a chance to recoup their investment and make a profit. Are these prescriptions actually safer though? Are they more effective than their plant-based ancestors? Not necessarily. The many side effects of these synthetic drugs can lead to side effects and more drugs. This may be the result of separating the compounds in the new drugs from their balancing components found in the plant extract.
Are plant-based alternatives effective in restoring wellness or preventing disease? Many parents think so, but what does the science say? The answer from the researchers is a qualified yes. More and more studies show that natural remedies are effective at killing bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even cancer cells in laboratory tests. Some researchers, like Nicole Parrish at Johns-Hopkins Medical Center even think compounds like plant-based essential oils show promise against the new resistant strains of bacteria, like MRSA and C-Diff. Parrish explains that essential oils have some of the most powerful antimicrobial compounds in existence, and with further testing and research, they could lead to a whole new class of medications (Parrish).
Scientists have found ways to concentrate organically grown herbs through distillation to produce powerful compounds, called essential oils, at affordable price points that are safe for the layman to use at home. This shows promise in supplementing expensive treatments available only by prescription. More and more families are learning how to use essential oils in classes taught in homes, as well as enlightened medical provider’s offices. These educated consumers can avoid co-payments and drug bills by trying to deal with everyday issues, likes aches, pains, and low-grade fevers, at home. This saves not only money on co-pays and medicine, but precious time, and prevents exposure to more communicable diseases found at the doctor’s office.
Do doctors still have concerns about essential oils and the “Dr. Mom” approach? No doubt! While the essential oil producers are paying for third party testing for drug interactions by the major pharmaceutical testers, with no problems to report, doctors still have other concerns:
- Are they really safe in the hands of the layman? Part of this concern comes from the doctor’s lack of education and experience with these tools. In Europe, herbal medicine and nutrition have a significant place in medical training. Hence, doctors prescribe lavender for skin irritations or sleep issues, and pharmacists carry the herbs or compounded herbal remedies in their stores.
- Are plant-based medicines comparable to pharmaceutical alternatives?
There are many ways to support the body with essential oils, but our FDA does not allow direct comparisons to be made. This keeps both doctors and patients ignorant of their real characteristics and options.
- Is it dangerous to try these natural alternatives?
Some doctors are concerned about people trying to treat themselves at home, and that some serious diseases would not get treated promptly. While this is possible, most people are in “try this first” mode with essential oils, and if the problem isn’t responding, they are headed to the doctor’s office.
- Is there a danger of not starting Rx meds right away when you have a diagnosis?
Some patients still go to their doctor with their concern, but prefer to try the natural treatment once the issue is confirmed. This may be a concern, but many doctors are willing to give that a chance and learn from their patient’s experience.
- How do natural alternatives compare in cost?
This is where the patient really wins. Even comparing over-the-counter meds for a headache at $.70 a dose for generic Tylenol to peppermint at $.07 per dose you start to see the value. But when you are talking about anti-viral drugs at $150+ per dose verses $1.25 per dose with Melissa oil, you can see why the doctors have questions and the pharmaceutical reps are worrying about their bottom line.
With Obamacare increasing the caseloads of many doctors and clinics beyond their capacity, might it be wise to encourage “home remedies” as a way to save “professional time” for the bigger problems that need their expertise? It might, but how do we find a way for the doctors to learn enough to raise their comfort level, and protect their incomes at the same time? Is it time for a unit on essential oils and herbal medicine in medical school? Maybe, though they already have lots of ground to cover in those few short years of training. There are already continuing education classes for doctors in essential oils, so they have the opportunity to get trained after they graduate. This offers hope for the future of integrative medicine.
How do we make integrative health a reality for patients that also works for doctors? Structuring the doctor’s patient load so that he is compensated more for keeping his patients well than for how many of his patients are sick enough to come to the office would be a healthy start. The human cost in this is too important to let traditional ways of thinking and billing be a reason to stop this conversation. I’m convinced that there is a way to get the best of modern and traditional medicine by empowering both doctors and their patients with more awareness of the new alternative – integration, for creating wellness.
Parrish, Nichole. Essential Oils and Future Antibiotics: New Weapons against Emerging ‘Superbugs’? (June 2013)