In the Native American culture, medicine was entrusted to the shaman yet all tribal members knew how to use what was termed "little medicine." Only the shaman knew how to use the more powerful plant herbs or "big medicine." The concept is not so different from today's world of traditional medicine. We all know Tylenol® will reduce a fever, that antihistamines dry our nose and antacids relieve heartburn and that if we need "big medicine," we will have to see the doctor. So what's wrong with this picture? Why do we seem to suffer in spite of our correct use of what we term little medicine? Maybe our idea of little medicine is not so little. Or maybe we need a different word for our over-the-counter little medicine.
The dictionary definition of medicine is a substance or preparation used in treating disease or a science or art dealing with the prevention or cure of disease. Does our little medicine really cure our disease or is it just suppressing symptoms? Our bodies naturally produce fever as a means of killing foreign invaders like virus and bacteria. Should we always suppress this? Antihistamines dry our nose when our body is working overtime to produce mucous to expel toxins such as pollens. Why not try using herbs as little medicine the next time you have a cold or the flu that doesn't require the medicine man's big medicine?
For every over-the-counter potion going there's an herb that will work more effectively to heal the body without suppressing symptoms. Yes, an herbal preparation may not work quite as quickly as we westerners would like but your body will thank you in the long run with better health. The major bonus of using herbals, little medicine, in place of over-the-counter drugs is the avoidance of big medicine. The chronic use of over-the-counter medications has been scientifically proven to cause imbalance in the body. Antacids deplete the body's supply of calcium, phosphate, vitamins A, B and D. Aspirin depletes the body of calcium, potassium, iron, vitamins A, B and C. Laxatives (not herbals) will deplete the body of potassium, vitamins A and K. These imbalances can in turn lead to serious disease and dysfunction and the use of big medicine.
Herbal preparations are inexpensive, easy to use and will help heal the underlying cause of your symptoms. The next time you have a headache try feverfew. It is the single most popular herbal in Europe for the relief of migraine. For the relief of hay fever symptoms try fenugreek. It contains natural drying agents that will reduce mucous production without the side effects of drowsiness. For cold and flu try echinachea with goldenseal. These two herbs are most popular here in the west. They have antibacterial, antiviral and immune boosting properties.
Old habits are hard to change for all of us. It's so easy to reach for the aspirin or Tylenol®. Herbs seem foreign to us but I assure you your body will not view them as foreign. Plant herbs, and foods used as little medicine are natural substances that our bodies will be able to utilize without depleting precious vitamin and mineral reserves.
If you would like to learn more about natural health, nutrition or how to use food as a tool for maintaining wellness or conquering disease why not join us! I am currently offering a class in nutrition that should prove to be fun and educational. A four week class open to the public will begin Thursdays, September 5th-26th from 6:30-8pm. Cost is $35. Call for registration 343-5256. Till next time, Rebecca.
Rebecca Huber is an RN and is nationally certified in therapeutic massage. She is a member of The American Holistic Nurses Association, The Associated Bodyworkers and Massage Professionals and a continuing student at The American Academy of Nutrition. Your questions and comments are always welcome via The Zephyr or her office at 312 Hill Arcade.
Last Modified: August 21, 1996