“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” -Hippocrates
Before becoming a physician, many medical students take an oath commonly referred to as the Hippocratic Oath. This code of ethics not only dictates the roles of physicians, teachers, and students of medicine but also requires physicians to make a commitment to only provide beneficial treatments, reduce the risk of harm and refrain from corrupted or mischievous behaviors. The code also mentions controversial topics such as a physician’s role of engaging in abortions and euthanasia. Social, economic and political changes have influenced the modification of the oath. But, in doing so it is possible that Hippocrates’ intent has been ignored. Although little is known of this Greek “Father of Medicine”, he was a huge proponent of holistic, natural or as we say today alternative medicine.
Natural medicine has been overlooked and outsourced to make room for pharmaceutical medication. While pharmaceutical medication, which has become the conventional form of medicine proves to be beneficial, it is commonly used as a sole source of treatment rather than a supplement to natural remedies. Natural medicine may involve the use of acupuncture, pilates, meditation, therapeutic massages, proper nutrition and the use of herbs such as sage, rosemary, ginger, and lavender. However, these unregulated sources of treatment prove as a threat for multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industries such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. While the FDA regulates medication for safety and efficacy for Americans, there is an overabundance of medication and pharmaceutical companies the department is responsible for. Therefore, it takes a while before pharmaceutical companies are fined for mislabeling and/or over-promoting their medication for use by vulnerable populations such as individuals under the age of 18 or those with a mental disorder.
Individuals experiencing mental illness such as depression or anxiety, consent to pharmaceutical medication with an inordinate amount of side effects usually without the option to pursue holistic treatments. For example, pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy medications such as benzodiazepines, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, buspirone, and pregabalin are commonly prescribed to patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. However, they carry side effects such as dizziness, sedation, agitation, amnesia, insomnia, and organ damage, thereby creating a paradoxical effect of worsening anxiety disorder symptoms and creating new ailments. On the other hand, herbs such as passionflower and kava have been shown to reduce nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia in patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and show less side effect than their pharmaceutical counterpart.
No treatment is perfect. Both herbal medicine and pharmaceutical medicine have risks of side effects and both industries make large profits in the realm of health. However, natural medicine is significantly cheaper than conventional forms of medication but is rarely given as a treatment option. A study published in the Journal of Health Services Research revealed that doctors will commonly use natural remedies for their illness but will not recommend them to patients. Therefore, consumers are left with the responsibility of understanding and expanding their options, yet many are unaware that they even have an option. Maybe it is easier to prescribe medication than to try convincing individuals to make positive lifestyle changes. But, why settle for less with our health. Don’t we deserve to have options?
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