Have we got medicine totally wrong?

  • Why it’s wrong to expect this from your GP
  • The problem with the quick fix attitude of Western medicine
  • Alternatives to asthma drugs and pain killers

Yesterday, I was standing in a socially distanced Post Office queue.

My mask was on… the smell of hand sanitiser in the air… the essence of 2020!

Ahead of me in the queue was a middle-aged couple.

Of course, I was eavesdropping like I always do!

The woman was telling the man about her trip to the GP that morning.

She was furious because the doctor had given her a lecture about lifestyle measures to control her pain problem.

“That was all fine in theory but I just wanted him to give me something to take the pain away!” she said.

Now, often in these letters I’m disparaging about the way strong pain killers are increasingly dished out like sweets.

So it was encouraging that the GP was trying to suggest other ways she could avoid and control pain.

But her anger at the GP got me thinking about the idea that many of us have in the West, that medicine is there to remove problems quickly and should always be the first resort.

You go to the doctor, he gives you a pill, then the problem goes away within a week or two.

Job done.

But is this expectation reasonable?

Is this the right way to think about dealing with our health problems?

Because while we think this is simply ‘how medicine works’, it’s very much the Western point of view.

And it has its downsides…

Because it’s this belief system which gets us addicted to drugs.

It’s what makes millions reliant on pharmaceuticals sold by powerful and unaccountable corporations.

And it’s what results in us spending our time and money tackling the symptoms of our health problems and not the cause.

But it’s not the only way to view things…

In traditional medicines around the world, the idea of the ‘quick fix’ or ‘fast cure’ is not really the main aim.

What traditional medicines and therapies do is seek to tackle the deeper causes of our problems.

And that takes time.

Let’s take, for instance, a common problem like asthma.

When the western medical solution backfires

In the West, we tend to prescribe asthma sufferers with an inhaler full of medicine, which can include corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers and theophylline.

It’s a remedy that can work fast but comes with side effects.

For instance, steroids suppress cortisol production and lowers your immune function.

Yet more and more people are growing reliant on them.

In 2016 two respiratory specialists in the USA suggested that inhalers were being overprescribed to the point that they had “become almost a fashion accessory”.

But there are other things people can do to try and tackle the root of the problem.

For instance, one of the asthma remedies you’ll find in the Good Life Letter shop is a salt inhaler

This kind of treatment goes way back to the time of Hippocrates, who advocated the use of breathing in the steam generated from hot salty solutions to help clear bronchial conditions.

So it’s effectively an ancient natural medicine.

Inside the inhaler are salt crystals which have been used to treat respiratory disease such as asthma, bronchitis, allergies and other chronic problems.

No, it won’t have the instant effect of a steroidal inhaler.

But used over the long term, breathing into it for 20 minutes a day, you can gradually improve the health of your respiratory system.

You can find out more about the salt inhaler here.

Or let’s look to the East…

A herbal asthma treatment without the side effects

In Chinese medicine, they use natural plants and herbs to tackle asthma, which don’t come with the same side effects as experienced with steroid-based inhalers.

Now, if I were to say ‘Chinese Medicine’ to the average person in the street they’d probably say, “Pah! It’s mumbo jumbo”.

Western medicines are the best, right?

But this is demonstrably not true.

For instance, paediatric immunologist, Xiu-Min Li, MD, has tested a blend of traditional Chinese herbs for asthma with remarkable success.

It’s known as ASHMI (anti-asthma herbal medicine intervention) and it combines the following herbs:

  • Lingzi (Ganoderma lucidum, also known as reishi)
  • gancao (Glycyrrhiza uralensis, also known as Chinese liquorice)
  • ku shen (Sophora flavescens, also known as shrubby sophora)

This alternative to steroid-based medicine has been shown in studies to have significant effects on the pathogenic mechanisms of asthma.

It also improves the body’s immune system instead of suppressing it.

So this could be something sufferers take without the side effects.

This is based on ancient Chinese medicines that don’t strive for the quick fix but go deep into the causes of the problem.

And the same goes for a lot of the alternative remedies and therapies I show you in these letters.

They’re not pills to make pain go away overnight.

They’re not designed to put a sticking plaster over your problems.

They take time to act – but while they are slower and less dramatic in their effects, they can have greater long-term benefits by curing the cause, not the symptoms.

Let’s take another example…

This popular pain relief gel is based on traditional medicine

We stock a pain relief massage gel called Advance 7, which has a series of utterly brilliant five star reviews on our shop (you can see here)

Unlike many pain relief medications, it has no harmful preservatives like parabens and phenoxyethanol.

Instead, its ingredients are traditional herbal remedies that go way back in time, including Devils Claw, Horsetail (a favourite remedy for Roman soldiers on long marches), Rosemary, Peppermint, Thyme, Cajeput and Green Clay.

It gives people a natural means of controlling joint and muscle pain, lessening their reliance on medications which can cause gastrointestinal irritation and kidney damage.

However, like most non-Western medicines, you need to give it some time and use the gel regularly to get the effect, massaging it into the area to warm and activate it.

Same goes for most of what you’ll try as an alternative to medicines – they don’t work in the same way and their effects need to be assessed differently.

It’s about how the baseline of your health improves over time.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we abandon Western medicine, or deny ourselves fast relief of acute pain when we need it.

It’s just worth bearing in mind the downside of our craving for the quick cure – and the upside of natural traditional remedies over the long term.