As herbal medicine progresses back to its former position of popularity, there is an increasing inclination on the part of the media to do “herbal exposés” that tend to be deceptive, sensationalist, and sometimes irrational.
Fortunately, as you venture deeper into your study of the subject, you will be able to distinguish these hype pieces from informative journalism.
One that rears its ugly head every now and then is the myth that: “If a herb has the power to heal, then it can harm.” Technically, this is probably true as almost every natural healing system has an adage akin to “The dose makes the poison.”
But as herbalist Robyn Landis (1997) explains, it’s important to recognize that this is true of all drugs and all foods as well as herbs. It is not especially true of herbs. To the contrary, herbs are much more difficult to misuse than drugs because of the synergy of all the ingredients they contain.
Landis also explains that:
“Doctors and scientists often assume that any active substance must have side effects, because their experience is with drugs, and drugs by their very nature will have side effects. Indeed, any rational decision regarding whether to use a drug begins with the acknowledgement that there will be side effects, and weighs that unavoidable cost against the potential benefits of the drug. But the activity of a whole plant, with all its compounds intact, simply is not comparable to the action of a single concentrated compound.”
As herbalist Michael Moore puts it:
“A physician’s biochemical tools are drugs. By extension, docs may rightly presume that any agent capable of promoting change probably has similar potential for side effects…”
Ironically, the expectation of side effects for drugs is such a given that side effects can come to be seen as a necessary sign of value, a warped sort of status symbol says Landis. Thus a corollary myth is: “If a herb doesn’t have the power to harm, then it can’t heal.”
Observes herbalist Moore: “Carried to an irrational extreme, some medical folks feel that anything without potential side effects is quackery. This, of course, leaves any alternative approach in a Catch-22 bind.”
A good case in point can be found in the realm of preventative medicine. It is a phenomenon herbalist Robyn Landis coined the “no-result” result:
“One of the ironies of taking good care of yourself in [herbal medicine] is what I call the “no-result” result. We are not accustomed to measuring our success by what doesn’t happen. We want to see something take place, even if it means being very ill and getting heroically “cured”. A shift in thinking is in order here: No news is good news. There are countless all-too-common health catastrophes whose absence in your life will confirm your success.”
Pause and Reflect
- Take a few minutes to think about the above. How do you feel about the “no-result” result? Does it make sense to you?
- Write down your thoughts and feelings or leave a Reply below.