So many promises are made in books, magazines and weblogs advocating the fantastic results from using herbs, spices, minerals and oils. They sound so great until I turn to the index searching for specific, chronic problems. There the promises fade into oblivion, especially for those of us who have had first-hand encounters with serious mental illness. Several decades ago, I first started looking everywhere for help for my relative’s mental illness, including books on natural healing. Those books never discuss prescriptions such as the natural element lithium, which helps some with bi-polar disorder. Lithium requires regular blood tests to avoid serious side effects.
For any other serious mental illness, don’t bother to buy the natural cure literature or products. A “natural cure” does not exist for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Natural healing platforms offer nothing in this category. Some individuals suffering from these disorders self-medicate with alcohol or street drugs. Those options numb them for a while but do not help the individual live normally.
It’s not that the psychiatrists did not try natural cures. In the 1960s, many advocated for vitamins to fix mental illness by supplying what the body surely must lack. Vitamin B did calm anxiety. It failed to fix the psychosis.
In the 1990s new medications began entering the market that truly did allow a semblance of ordinary life for the severely mentally ill. The website for Everyday Health states, “Schizophrenia is a serious and chronic mental illness that generally requires anti-psychotic medication to keep it under control.” Chemically unbalanced minds need more than herbs, oils, supplements or vitamins. They need a qualified, trained clinician to find each individual’s best fit with a modern medication.
The natural healing advisors also have ideas for diabetes. Practically speaking, many sufferers in this overfed country need to put down that candy bar, grab a carrot, take a walk and lose the weight. Still, plenty of folks with diabetes need more than that, including some thin, active folks who make healthy choices and still develop diabetes. Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, the only recourse for individuals with diabetes was a very strict diet with very few carbs. Even then they potentially faced a shorter life expectancy. In “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, one of the aunts developed diabetes. The doctor trained Corrie to test the aunt’s urine regularly. Eventually, the test results diagnosed her as terminal. In that era before insulin, she knew nothing could reverse the sentence. Her aunt needed a prescription for insulin, which was not available at the time.
As I worked on this column, I came across a medical advice column by Walt Larimore, MD. He supports natural medicines (herbs, vitamins and supplements.) The questioner asked about products sold to boost the immune system against the flu, a cold or Covid-19. Larimore recognized that 25 to 30 percent of the population take supplements for their immune systems. “Unfortunately they’re wasting their hard-earned dollars,” he wrote. He went on to quote Harvard Heath “For now there are no scientifically proven (products to enhance) immune function.” He added that even the makers are aware that the natural medicines are not working. Which is why they use words such as “supports immune health” or “supplements.”
So, I scan the books, read the blogs and social media chatter. I listen to short videos (except the ones that take an hour to convey one sentence of information). I refuse to believe their hype because while some supplements help, others take your cash and pay little in curative power. I eat healthy, drag myself to exercise regularly, take a couple supplements and follow the common sense approach of folks like Dr. Larimore.