I built a career working in healthcare. Belief in Western Medicine pays the bills in my house, built the foundation of a good portion of my social circle, and occupies a huge percentage of my long term memory. I believe in it like I believe in God, which is to say that I’m absolutely and unabashedly sure of its worth and importance in my life, even though there is still much that I don’t know or understand. But, just because I value and believe strongly in Western Medicine doesn’t mean that I don’t also appreciate other approaches towards health and wellness. In fact, over the past few years, I have tried several homeopathic and herbal remedies with my own family, mostly with the help of my good friend Patty. She’s steadily becoming my homeopathy guru.
When His Majesty was born, Patty was one of the first visitors to come to our home. She’s kind of the matriarch of our social group, the Don of our Mommy Mafia if you will, and she’s got to lay eyes on any newbies ASAP, give her approval, and read them a beautiful story that tugs on your super hormonal postpartum heart strings, and makes you fight back tears. Anyway, during this visit, she gave me some breastfeeding support, and informed me that my breast milk would cure just about any problem his Majesty might have. Diaper rash. Pink eye. Nasal congestion. Eczema. Now, honestly… she’s a little crunchier than I am, and I thought she was a little nuts for a minute there. But Patty has a handful of children, and years more experience with infants (and with lactating, for that matter) then I ever will, so, when His Majesty woke up with a gunky eye on the day before his newborn photos would be taken, I squirted him in the eye with breast milk. My husband, the wise man that he is, believes so much in the wisdom of my Patty that he even helped me get my aim right.
His eye was better- I’m talking completely cleared up- in 12 hours.
A few months later, when His Majesty started to become more mobile, and thus, began to bump his head into things, Patty recommended that I buy Arnica. Do you know what Arnica is? I had never heard of it, but Arnica is magic. It’s magic. There’s no other way to describe it. You know how kids will bump their heads into things, and get those goose egg bruises? Or when your toddler breaks away from your grasp and makes a run for freedom, thus running face first into the crystal clear, streak free, floor to ceiling glass windows at the Apple Store? Oh, that’s just my nutty kid? Well, either way, I have personally watched as bumps and bruises fade away in mere minutes following the application or ingestion of Arnica. And, it must feel better, too, because His Majesty will
ask for demand it by name (“Hurt head. Need Arnica!”).
After His Majesty’s breathing problems earlier this month, I mentioned to Patty that he definitely seemed to have an environmental component to his symptoms. In fact, after a few hours outside (we have had the warmest winter, it’s been unreal), he required a nebulized albuterol breathing treatment, and another one that evening before bed. Breathing problems are obviously concerning, even with the proper equipment and an effective medication, and the nebulizer treatments are not only time consuming to administer, but they are also not without side effects (notedly, restlessness and irritability, which are particularly unpleasant in not-yet-completely-verbal toddler). Given that, Patty offered to let me try some of her homemade Elderberry Syrup, explaining to me that it can help ease the symptoms of not only environmental allergies, but also of the cold and flu viruses, and also works to improve mood, and boost immunity. She sells it for $8 a pint, which is far cheaper than the elderberry syrup that you’ll find at the store, plus hers is made with superior ingredients.
Given the solid history of following Patty’s advice, what do you think I said? I’m not stupid, I took her up on the offer.
Elderberry Syrup from South of the Fork. Isn't it pretty?
After a few doses of Patty’s Elderberry Syrup, His Majesty was noticeably less stuffy, and on the 5th day, even after a full morning of outside play, he did not show any respiratory symptom at all.
The more that I think about it, the more instances of effective homeopathy I can recall. My “work husband” suffered terrible arthritis in his knees that was successfully managed for several years with glucosamine chondroitin, thereby avoiding steroid injections and hefty doses of NSAIDS, which can be hard on the gut. Fish oil is now a staple recommendation in the promotion of a healthy heart. We have long known the benefit of B Vitamins in providing energy and aiding the metabolism (you know those “12 hour energy shots? That’s what those are. Take a B vitamin at night and try to go to sleep, and see if you don’t believe me…). Ginger is useful in treating nausea (perhaps that is why your mother used to give you Ginger Ale when you were sick as a child). Fenugreek can be used to aid in lactation, lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. I knew another man through work who, following a terminal cancer diagnosis with the grim prognosis of mere months to live, actually lived for several years, a blessing he attributed to “magic shiitake mushrooms“. I bet if you really thought about it, you’d be able to come up with several instances of homeopathy at work in your friends and family.
Natural remedies and Western Medicine are not as far apart as you might think. Aspirin, the “miracle drug”, was originally derived from the bark of the willow tree. Antibiotics were first discovered in mold. Warfarin, a popular anticoagulant, is based on a chemical naturally found in clover. Digoxin, a powerful cardiac drug, is derived from the Foxglove plant. Modern medicine is often based on some compound that is found naturally. Science often takes its inspiration straight from God. It is my belief that the two can not be wholly separated.
I’m not saying that they will work for everyone or for every problem, and herbs and homeopathic remedies can have their own side effects, especially if you go rogue and make up your own regimens without knowing what you’re doing. Know that I’m not making any medical or treatment recommendations, PERIOD, that’s what you need to see your own health care provider for. But I am saying that if you are at your wits end about what to do about a certain condition or ailment, don’t discount asking your provider about alternative therapies that may be available.
I should add an extra caution to you that because many natural remedies and herbal preparations are not held to a standard manufacturing quality or recipe, you should be cautious of where you get your products, especially if you don’t have a Patty in your life. As with most things, cheaper isn’t always better, and if you are seeking herbal remedies, find yourself a trusted provider. Just like Western Medicine, when you’re looking for advice on health, wellness, or disease, you should find a someone that you are comfortable with, someone that knows their stuff. Don’t just head to any local vitamin place and pick up elderberry syrup, simply because it’s the closest store to your home that happens to sell it. Actually talk to the staff, and find out where they get their products. Then do your research, and come back and ask more questions. You should do this when it comes to your healthcare anyway, regardless of whether you are seeking alternative medicine or not. It’s YOUR health. It’s YOUR body. It’s in YOUR best interest. No one should be expected to look out for you more than you look out for yourself.
Do you have any homeopathic or home remedies that you swear by? Anything that your mom or grandparent passed along to you that perhaps you don’t completely understand, but you know it to be effective? If we don’t pass these things along, they disappear when we do…