Natural remedies/ Medicinal Plant


Discussion by: thelonehye1988


this is my first posting on this site. I am curious on what people think about natural medecinal plants that are not normally approved by the FDA or whatnot. Honestly, I haven't done much research on the matter, nor did I look thoroughly in this forum if there are past discussions about this.

The reason why I'm interested about this is because recently my brother who suffers from Ulcerative Colitis started taking different natural pills & liquids to fight the disease. The doctor who prescribed him this array of medecine practices Iridology*. This is why I feel skeptical about his medecine. I'm not against the natural medicine, even if it may not be approved by the FDA. I am only wary, because they are prescribed by someone who practices a pseudoscience.

It would be cool if someone has a good knowledge on plant medecine or if someone can guide me towards a website that deals with this stuff. Any info is appreciated :)



  1. I have no knowledge of the subject but I will give some advice; find out what the meds your brother is taking are, at the very least you may get some useful information from wiki

    my view on herbal medicine is it’s fine if it makes you feel better but for any serious condition you should see a professional. I don’t know much about this condition either other than it has a tendency to come and go, even after proper (evidence based) medicine or surgery so be very skeptical of any claims of eficacy that aren’t backed up by rigourous studies

    I like the idea that there are unknown treatments out there waiting to be picked and I’d consider using them even without approval but you can’t draw any conclusions without evidence and have to accept you’re taking something of an unknown risk

  2. The proponents of natural medicine say a lot of things that I agree with. For example, that big pharmaceutical companies aren’t always trustworthy and that doctors often neglect the whole patient and focus only on the physical aspects forgetting that there is strong evidence that things like a patient’s state of mind plays an enormous role in an effective recovery. But those things don’t change the fact that the world can’t be divided up into the science world and the holistic world. Either something works or it doesn’t and if it works it will work in double blind controlled experiments and if it doesn’t work in such experiments any effects (which can still be considerable) are due to the placebo effect.

    I guess my advice would be to be skeptical of any and all claims, whether from traditional or alternative therapies. Before I started taking the drug for my MS I did the research to see that it actually was effective and worth the costs (both in dollars and effects on me the costs are considerable). I have unfortunately seen a lot of people who get (quite naturally) frustrated with the US system of medicine and go to alternative medicines that are essentially useless (at best) as a result. Sorry I can’t give specific advice about this drug though. I agree with Sagan, there are a lot of good resources online. Wkipedia is always a good start.

    • In reply to #2 by Red Dog:

      The proponents of natural medicine say a lot of things that I agree with. For example, that big pharmaceutical companies aren’t always trustworthy and that doctors often neglect the whole patient and focus only on the physical aspects

      I guess my advice would be to be skeptical of any and all claims, whether from traditional or alternative therapies.

      I agree.

      Many medicines have started out as herbal remedies, but it is also worth noting that lots of effective ones are poisons, so getting one that has regulated production and the right dosage is critical.

      Untested and unregulated, can all too easily mean “ineffective”, but could also mean “dangerous”. Internet quacks are not an honest or reliable source of anything which could affect your health.

      Approved medicines have known side-effects and contra-indication warnings doctors look for. Quackery has no such safeguards.

    • In reply to #4 by Ornicar:

      You are allowed to think that if those plant pills had been proven to work, they would be sold as medicine.

      And the same goes for iridology. Likely utter crap.

      Regarding iridology, I would have thought that the principle used in eye recognition technology was that one’s iris was unchanged over the course of one’s life. I can’t see how the two processes could both work. I’d be happy to know if I’m on the wrong path.

      • In reply to #5 by Nitya:

        Regarding iridology, I would have thought that the principle used in eye recognition technology was that one’s iris was unchanged over the course of one’s life. I can’t see how the two processes could both work. I’d be happy to know if I’m on the wrong path.

        Exactly. Iris recognition is as reliable as fingerprints because the iris structure is stable from birth. Some diseases affect eye colour (white part) or pupil size, but the iris cannot be a map of the whole body health. They might as well be reading ears, toes, palms, tea leaves, crystal balls or tarot cards.

  3. Tim Minchin put it nicely I thought in Storm where he says words to the effect “By definition alternative medicine has been either not been proved to work or been proved not to work. Do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work…medicine”.

    I find medicine often disappointing in how slowly it changes it’s orthodoxies heart of the matter and Barry Marshall or new scientific understanding. While there is often good reasons for a certain amount of conservatism it is often guilty of poor science, often I think because its doctors are not trained with enough emphasis on the actual science, what it means and how it works. The fact that many doctors also practice iridology are also chiropractors etc. is a case in point. It undermines the actual science in favour of a buck, you see the same when you go to a chemist (pharmacist) the actual medicine is usually behind the counter and you need a script to get it meanwhile 7/10’s of the rest of the store is taken up with woo borrowing from the credibility of the real science. I personally think this attitude costs many lives a Pharmacy should under no circumstances be allowed to sell this crap.

    Often natural medicines may have some impact on the body such a Naringin found in grapefruit has been adopted by some as a anti-cancer treatment and there is some real evidence that it may have properties that could lead in this direction as well as improved cardiovascular health. However a careful reading of the studies reveals its impacts are not sufficiently good yet to use it without other drugs and treatments but because it messes with the uptake of many other drugs it can result in getting no dosage of certain drugs or an overdose as the breakdown of some medications is delayed then you get hit with it when you stop consuming the Naringin. So here is something that seems harmless grapefruit juice that may stop you blood pressure medication working! Does this stop the merchants from peddling it oh no, not while there is a buck to be made.

    • In reply to #7 by Reckless Monkey:

      often I think because its doctors are not trained with enough emphasis on the actual science, what it means and how it works.

      I think it’s also something related to actually practicing in a medical environment instead of the patient-free lab. That’s only speculation. Quick story: my dog required a trip to the brain surgeon years ago. The veterinarian had impeccable credentials and in addition to his veterinary training holds a separate PhD in neuroscience. This guy is a scientist.

      Upon discharge there were four options to consider as an adjunct for my dog’s condition. The first three were science-based, the fourth was acupuncture. My wife at the time (who is a science-based veterinarian) and I looked at each other in hushed confusion. A scientist by training just offered us woo.

      I really don’t get it. Well, actually I do. There are six or seven main reasons, according to David Ramey, DVM, for why otherwise trained scientists go to the dark side. I don’t have the book handy right now but it’s probably searchable for those who are interested. One is greed, one is a doctor complex (exhibited by non-doctors who want prestige), and the rest I’m sure aren’t too hard to figure out.


  4. I’d be wary of the long term effects of carrying a therapeutic dose of any chemical in one’s bloodstream. Much less a “plant product of unknown consequences”. My tendency is to not buy a car in it’s first model year, never own the most expensive house on the block, never trust what I sense to be bullshit, and limit the number of “rogue” chemicals I take in. I wonder, also, about secondary metabolites, liver toxicity, kidney problems, and even nervous system involvement. Scary to me.

  5. Just google St John’s wort and see the dangers of using “medicines” without the protection of the regulatory authorities and the skills of a state licensed practitioner!

    “One of the most critical dangers of taking Saint John’s Wort is that it has a tendency to induce manic episodes in patients who are bipolar. According to a 1999 statement released by Biol Psychiatry based on placebo-controlled studies, it should not be used to treat depression in those with manic-depressive disorders, because, rather than stabilize the patient, it tends to swing them in the opposite–but equally dangerous—psychological direction.”

  6. The thing that bugs me most is product after product is promised to perform miracles, and it does nothing. The manufacturer sells no more bottles, but does manage to sell another bottle of useless stuff under yet another name with yet another set of promises.

    Somebody has to do a test to make sure the product is effective and non-poisonous. Herbal companies are reluctant. They have not the money and the products are not-patentable.

    So long as there are no promises, you should be able to sell whatever you want, so long as it is not poisonous, e.g. amino acids.

    For some reason homeopathic remedies keep selling even though they do not work. They should all be prosecuted for fraud.

  7. I have tried all manner of nausea medicines. By far the best is ginger (other than a Chinese traditional medicine prescription). Doctors don’t think of it. It is not patentable. There are no ads for it is his magazines. I presume there are some other good herbals languishing just because they are herbals.

  8. The best that can be said natural medicinal plant remedies is that people don’t know for sure that they do anything (good that is). Almost certainly they will have a significant effect.

    The reason for their effectiveness (for better or worse) is that some plants have evolved proteins and other complex molecules as a defence against browsing predators. Whoever consumes natural medicinal plants, normally avoided as a food source, is therefore playing the role of a browsing predator, but as a predator which may not have yet evolved the relevant counter-measures and tolerances that mitigate what are known as ‘anti-nutrients’ in these plant foods.

    The evolutionary ‘purpose’ of anti-nutrients in plants is to disrupt the predator’s molecular physiology, hopefully to the extent of preventing further predation. Or at very least to discourage predation via pain or other discomfort, or by other means of minimising future attentions of browsing predators in the generations further downstream. It presumably enhances the survivability and reproducibility of the plants, by having the exactly opposite effect on the prey. This process can drive speciation as predator and prey evolve together, sometimes towards a more tolerant or cooperative relationship.

    Medical interventions via pharmaceuticals and natural plant medicines are intended to have a positive effect on disease of injury symptoms. (Typical natural plant type remedies now better known as pharmaceuticals being aspirin and penicillin.) Many of these positive effects are essentially a side effect of various physiological pathways being disrupted. The idea being that pharmaceuticals don’t normally cause things to happen, they work by causing some other things not to happen. The resulting disruption might impede an undesirable over-response by the body’s inflammation and other systems, or possibly have the effect of enabling an alternative, otherwise redundant pathway, or even triggering alternative gene expression, which turns out to be somehow better than what otherwise may have been happening. Sometimes the immune system might be triggered to respond less or more aggressively when it otherwise may have remained ineffective or too effective.

    An example might be an irritant that results in greater blood flow to the area of irritation, and therefore greater exposure of the affected tissues to nutrients and metabolic activity that might enhance the speed of healing for stresses or injury.

    Often it isn’t scientifically known exactly how particular pharmaceuticals work. But there is likely to be scientific interest in natural medicinal plants owing to their potential application as future pharmaceuticals. Another approach is to comprehend the physiological pathways and design pharmaceuticals that may have some kind of disruptive impact on those pathways. But natural evolution over millions of years tends to be a more productive process. Seeing as the results have been naturally selected over deep time to identify physiological pathways in animals that are relatively easily prone to disruption with very low molecular toxin doses, but with significant consequences for the predator and prey. The fruits of this evolution are available if those involved have the patience to wait. Fortunately we don’t have to wait, because we are living at the furthest possible end of the relevant evolutionary pathways, rather than at the very start. We may also benefit from thousands of years of trial and error by the various traditional cultures that have selected particular natural plant medicines because of their demonstrated pharmaceutical impact on humans.

    There’s some interesting discussion about the connection between plant anti-nutrients and some forms of auto-immune diseases on the YouTube channel ‘Evolution: This View of Life’

    Check out especially the 2 most popular interviews on that channel.

    It seems very unlikely that diseases which are most probably caused by natural non-medicinal plant toxins may therefore also be cured by other natural medicinal plant toxins. Kind of like swallowing spiders to catch the flies. it’s probably better just to stop swallowing the flies. (Which I think is more or less what those being interviewed on the YouTube channel are saying.)

  9. Generally it is a scam. Even if the plant in question has real medicinal values the quality control is abysmal. A recent survey of herbal remedies found that only 2 in 12 contained what they claimed. Many were adulterated with other herbs, or contained fillers of dubious healthiness.

    When we do discover a natural or herbal remedy that works it generally is quickly turned into a conventional medicine. the advantage of this is quality control: a known does, no additives, no harmful fillers.

  10. A study was recently released that found that many herbal products don’t contain the active ingredients advertised and worse, may have contaminants.

    A lack of regulation by the FDA seems like it would really leave a lot of people vulnerable. Granted, many of our medicines were derived from plants. The benefit in having them manufactured by pharmaceutical companies is that the active ingredient can be isolated and given in measured doses, something that is difficult to do with “natural” medicines.

    People often seem to view natural medicines as a way to “stick it to the man” known as big pharma – but believe me, these herbal remedy companies make a ton of money ($34 billion according to this article). They’re not sacrificing anything for the greater good of mankind.

  11. Only a small fraction of all the known plants have been correctly studied for medicinal usefulness. There are a number that indeed have yielded spectacular and lasting results (foxglove, opium poppy). Before it is slashed & burned away a scientific coalition ought to be mounted to study the remaining plethora of plants in the Amazon. I would wager many new and effective drugs might be derived as a result.

  12. It goes on, the most recent, and to my personal experience, is the plant Euphorbia peplos, known by several common names including milkweed or cancer weed, the sap of which has long been a traditional folk remedy for solar skin damage and squamous cell carcinoma. The derived active, and very effective, agent is now, and only recently, marketed under the trade name of Picato gel.

    The chemistry that plants and fungi have evolved, commonly as defences, have vast potential that is threatened by deforestation world wide, and, while much “traditional” folk plant medicine is bunkum, garlic keeps witches away, for example, much, like the “cancer weed” above is not.

    The problem is separating rubbish from reality, and science, which can be at times needlessly blinkered, from charlatanism.

Leave a Reply