Now, now children,
First of all - WELCOME Susie! Nice to have another woman join us in the midst of these testosterone laden forums...
Now, as to supplements - I know I am opening myself up to serious rebuke from our beloved Doctor X, but I want to respond to the above posts on echinacea from a homeopathic [GASP! You are really in for it! - J.D.'s Ed.] standpoint.
I've been studying homeopathy for about 6 years now - and have been using the remedies in the dojo for injuries (even Tony may be a believer after a little incident last Saturday involving a bat and his foot...) and also with great success with family - I know that homeopathy has saved me hundreds of dollars in medical bills - and - lest you think I am a complete skeptic as to "conventional" medicine (although I am close!) I do temper my reliance on "alternative" medicine with visits to a "regular" doctor or specialist when needed as guided by common sense - and Red Cross training as a first responder and certified instructor in most of the Red Cross courses on community first aid and safety. So don't lump me into the "Lotus-eaters" category just yet!
First off - please note that homeopathy is a 200 year old science - pioneered in large part by Dr. Samuel Hahneman who was intrigued by the fact that quinine (a poison) when administered in small doses to a sick person (with malaria) would have a curative effect - while larger doses to a well person would have a harmful effect. He surmised, (and subsequently demonstrated with hundreds of provings - involving double blind studies) that minute doses of other substances, often toxic ones, would have similar results. For example, a substance that can cause skin irritation such as poison ivy - when administered in minute doses, often helps alleviate similar skin problems. Similarly, Apis mellifica, derived from bees, works very well on bee stings and other insect bites that produce angry welts - it has even been used successfully by persons with severe allergies to bee stings - no epinephrine needed! But LEARN about it before you try it!
OK - enough about that - I've only scratched the surface with classes and seminars (and lots of reading and study) for the last six years - and I am still a beginner! Homeopathy is very involved - that is why brief references in articles by those who have not spent any length of time studying the intricacies of the science can not be taken as gospel. Kind of like a non-martial artist watching a single tape of a sanchin and trying to explain it with any understanding at all to another non-martial artist.
That being said I also wish to say that homeopathy is NOT herbs! Although some remedies are derived from herbs, the method is completely different - small, potentized doses in homeopathy are used to treat symptoms that larger doses would cause. This is where my main point comes in... (Finally! I hear your editor now J.D.-san)
When using things like Echinacea and Goldenseal for colds and flus - you must use caution. Aside from side effects - (yes, all herbs have side effects - homeopathy does not - too lengthy to go into here) just consider the quinine example above... minute doses help a sick person, but larger doses can hurt a well person. Taking echinacea when a cold is coming on - or when already sick, can be very effective, but when taken over long periods of time when well, your body will build up a tolerance to it and you may eventually produce the very symptoms you are seeking to avoid! If anyone is interested, I can point you in the direction of resources that show studies to this effect. There are many homeopathy sites on the web as well. Similar results have been shown with those "memory enhancing" herbs and also "stress reducing" herbal remedies. When taken as a preventative, over extended periods of time, you may find that you will pay a price eventually.
I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I have learned the above from reputable homeopathic practitioners, many of them with medical degrees as well as internationally recognized homeopathic certifications. (Homeopathy is very well accepted in Europe and other countries...draw your own conclusions on that one!)
So, above all use common sense. Become an educated consumer - It's YOUR body! Don't buy the latest "herb du jour" without investigating potential side effects thoroughly. Get a primer on alternative medicine and learn a little before you condemn. Don't follow a fad or a single study - results, like statistics can be presented so as to skew the apparent implications according to the wishes of the presenter.
Just like getting a second opinion in conventional medicine, you should do the same with alternative treatments by researching and considering different views. Conventional doctors are not God (though some think they are)(but none on these forums of course!) and you do not have to take their statements as gospel. They make guesses just like we do - "informed opinions" - inform yourself before making judgments or accepting invasive treatment.
Don't accept blindly opinions on alternative treatments. Learn about them yourself, question, and experiment - but CAREFULLY!
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