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Folk Remedies: Dangerous or Harmless, Helpful or Ineffective?

, Folk Remedies: Dangerous or Harmless, Helpful or Ineffective?

Folk remedies, herbal supplements, and alternative medicine have greatly expanded in recent years, mirroring the astronomic price inflation in the healthcare industry at large. US citizens are looking for ways to treat themselves without the side effects of traditional pharmaceutical drugs. More importantly, many members of the public are also actively seeking to avoid medical treatment due to a lack of health insurance coverage and income with which to pay for professional medical consultation. This can make for some potentially dangerous choices, given that buyers are often lacking information regarding what a particular herbal remedy contains, or about how effective a given form of alternative medicine is at treating an illness or injury.

That is not to say these methods cannot be effective. The first step is to thoroughly research whatever herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, or alternative medicine you are considering. Much of the science behind nutritional supplements is murky, especially when it comes to marketing claims. If these dietary supplement companies do not make a specific claim about their product and the nutrition it provides, the FDA cannot effectively test and regulate the product. Consequently, we have many supplements on the market that are not fully tested, with self-made marketing claims that are ambiguous at best.

 Inadequate testing is a flaw that has damaged the reputation of alternative medicine for decades. Whereas evidence-based medicine places importance on the scientific method when evaluating research and designing experiments, many practitioners of alternative medicine are not accredited by any scientific institution and may not have any professional medical training. As with herbal remedies and nutritional supplements, careful investigation is essential when considering treatment via alternative medicine. What methods does the practitioner use and have those methods been evaluated by credible sources? Transparency is essential: if a practitioner refuses to be forthcoming regarding his or her methods and their corresponding effects, the practitioner may be not providing vital information regarding effectiveness or patient safety.

After you have decided on a course of alternative medicine, be sure to schedule regular checkups with your physician. Make sure to ask questions regarding the supplements and be forthcoming with details regarding all the dietary supplements you are taking. Your doctor may be able to provide you with information about how those supplements will interact with you metabolically, as well as if they pose any threat based on the prescription medications you are presently taking. Remember that your physician can only make decisions based on the evidence you offer, so compile a list of medications and supplements if you don’t think you can remember them all for your checkup.

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