What heals?

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL l) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 ()], via Wikimedia Commons

So I have been so mystified by recent turn of events that I find myself thinking about magic. What is pictured left is known as white bryony root and was for many years thought of as a lucky magical thing. It is pretty poisonous.

In small appropriately served doses it can be healing, but it is a tricky thing to know what kills and what heals. I mean, sure if you have modern measurement and dosing rules you can get a narrow band on it. But in pre-modern times it was tantamount to witchcraft. Don’t get me started on the complex calculus of plant health/growth conditions/subspecies versus drug potency.

However, I think anybody who likes hot peppers and gets “duds” or “flameout” from time to time knows what I’m talking about.  Now all of this comes out of ideas floating in my head around health issues, health fads, and conventional medicine. I’m not one of those people who thinks that all of the holistic medicine is BS, but there is much of it out there that is based on discarded theories (homeopathy to name one) and others that are based on real research.

There is other research in medicine that is constantly overturning things assumed before– such as the low fat high carb diet so beloved for the past 30-40 odd years or so. This diet is such that  reputable organizations (such as the American Diabetes Association) still support, even if there is bucket loads of research that shows– that it may be aggravating the Diabetes problem, not helping it.  Or perhaps I should say that the research suggests this very strongly.

Furthermore, conventional medicine is not without vested interests– such as the much dreaded Big Pharma, the Government interests, Insurance Interests, and all those researchers who’s reputations theories generally become faddy when their friends are prominent in all the most respected journals.  Contrary to public belief, the government was heavy into healthcare even before Obamacare, controlling a great deal about how the pharmaceutical industry operates. They limit what can be done, how much of it can be done and how much money is needed to get it done.

Basically Big Pharma was an “unintended  consequence” of  the FDA rules about what it takes to get a drug on the market. It also limits what is required to get over the hurdle, and disincentives inexpensive therapies, such as herbal medicine and older drugs that could get a new viewing for a new purpose.  This narrow and tall jump to manage also limits what a doctor can count on, as well– so he is just as willing to chuck out more reasonably priced therapies because no consistent data is available– because there is no money in research, because you can’t make money selling it as a legitimate treatment.

I hope that the huge profits made by the supplement industry will go into making studies of what it is they are doing. There is evidence to suggest there is, and apparently Stanford and other places are looking into such things. But I am a bit out of date in this field, so I will need to get back to you on this.

Even with this vector for more assurances: I don’t have a background in statistics, or researches, data analysis, or what have you. What’s an ordinary schmo like me supposed to do?  The supposed experts themselves can’t decide what’s really going on.  Not to mention, you can do a reasonably good study and depending on a whole host of factors either massage the data for the answers you want, or choose your test pool for highest success for what you want. Now, it certainly limits obvious dangers that will hurt practically everyone, but it also means that the elderly, children, and those with odd systems are more vulnerable to the conventional treatments.

Not to mention– while the skeptical human is most persuaded by individual stories– which seem the most credible– they are considered useless as even data by medical professionals and researchers.

But if I can’t properly read a study, and if my doctor is being seduced by the dark side of Pharma, then what? In these circumstances, they use what they have. The popular press (which frequently gets it wrong), the stories of friends, family, and Dr. Oz.   Well, I don’t trust any of them either.  So Here’s a fun illustration of what I mean.

So… when I got sick a few weeks ago, at first I thought I could just ignore it. That was the flu, and just by drinking a 2 kale smoothies a day, I was able to work through it. Until… well, until I got the sinus infection, and my immune system became overworked. So they gave me some very powerful antibiotics to kill it dead.  It worked… but not well enough. I’m still sick with this thing, and am now going through a regimen of mega-doses of  Vitamin C– which seem to be working better than the super strong antibiotic.

But you can’t count on it. As much as we see ourselves far and beyond the days of hiring Hexenmeisterin  or a doctor/Alchemist for our health care, for the average consumer we haven’t left it that far behind.

While super bugs are nibbling away at our effective antibiotics, and more and more of our trusted authorities stick with older standards over recent research, seeing the truth gets harder and harder.

To make matters even more annoying, Obamacare will come to the rescue by advocating “best practices” which is a weasel word for “whatever works for the most people”, which, again, since most test subjects are young males in their 20’s, means that statistical outliers will be more at risk– and won’t have any other options  Last I read, using other treatments will be illegal.

It makes one kind of sympathize with the Roman citizens during the fall of Rome who chased out all the Greek doctors with torches and pitchforks.  While it is easy to argue that the Romans were rebelling against high civilization; on the other hand, the Greeks were also awfully fond of sophists, who deserve no better.

I did learn a few experiential things during this process– too many kale smoothies makes everything taste bitter– or maybe that’s the antibiotic.

By Fritz Geller-Grimm (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

However, this one I can tell you straight – uncooked collard greens, mixed with fresh kale and put into a smoothie taste like crushed potato bugs. Don’t go there. It’s nasty.  Sure, it’s anecdotal evidence… maybe your mileage may vary.  After all my husband will tell you that fresh cilantro always tastes like soap.

But we still read what our fellow humans are saying– because that is something you can (kinda) touch. You can point to that person and say, “well, they said it, and why would they lie”?  Also, it reinforces our connections to other human beings, which can be tenuous in these days of high tech high-jinks.

Now, I happen to be in favor of all that, because I think it has some serious benefits to both the individual and civilization– but that doesn’t stop it from having downsides. It becomes it’s own magic, and can make everything around you seem less real– or more credible that things are going to heck in a hand basket.

So what is the answer?  Well, the truths we can hold onto amount to this: magic isn’t real. Sure, miracles happen, but they are that– miracles. You can’t make them happen. Yes, there are drugs that have amazing properties, but they aren’t perfect, and you have to be careful. Look both ways before crossing the street, and if you hear impossible results, chances are, they are just that.

Also, not all doctors are on the dole for Pharma. I have a DO with a lot of conventional training as well– and he keeps up with the latest studies, and has a lot of experience reading through BS.   It takes a while sometimes to find a doctor like that, but it’s really worth it, especially if you are weird like me.

Be especially careful with children and teens– especially with psychoactive drugs. I am terribly biased here, but then I had some bad experiences. They probably aren’t true for most people, but if something seems unreasonable to you– stop it! Confront your doctor. Get a second opinion.  Like anything, use your common sense.   It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.  Learn things that will help you, and average your information. But most of all– don’t give up.  Those who are most likely to die are the hopeless– which are those without hope. That is, they do not possess it, not that they do not warrant it. For life warrants hope.

For me, at least, that is what God is for. Even if things look hopeless, there is always the First and Last Things.

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