Sunday, January 18, 2015

Does the Root Word of "Pharmaceutical" (Pharmakeia/φαρμακεία) Mean That Pharmaceutical Drugs Are Rooted In the Occult/Sorcery?

Posted by Christine Pack

One claim I am seeing more and more among Christians is that pharmaceutical drugs have their roots in the occult, because of the root word (φαρμακεία) from which the words pharmaceutical/pharmacy are derived.

With this in mind, I would like to exhort my brothers and sisters in Christ to think on this prayerfully, with Bible in hand, and with a clear mind. The word pharmakeia (φαρμακεία) in the Bible has to do with practices that God detests in which divination and contact with evil spirits are used (sorcery). That is not how pharmaceutical drugs of today are created. Drugs today are created using the scientific process of formulating an hypothesis, using double-blind randomized tests, engaging in long-term human trials, and mindfully studying the results in order to isolate a healing mechanism. Once a healing mechanism is located, the product is then categorized as a drug of some kind. Please note: this is all done with the brain, and not through the mystical means of obtaining data from the spirit world whereby the brain is bypassed (the biblical understanding of "sorcery").
Source: Bible Hub

Also, the gospel writer Luke was a doctor ("the beloved physician") who practiced medicine. Scripture does not give us any hint that doctors should be avoided, or that medicine is sinful.

Therefore, we know that our pharmaceutical drugs of today are not bad or evil or associated with witchcraft/sorcery. However, with all substances that are taken for physical healing, there is a risk/reward associated with the substance. Because of the scientific testing done on pharmaceuticals, their risks/benefits are more clearly defined. Alternative treatments, on the other hand, including herbs, don't have as much scientific testing/support. They are also unregulated, which means that virtually any claim can be made about them by the seller, without these claims having to have been scientifically evaluated or substantiated.

Because of that, herb manufacturers make all sorts of claims about the miraculous cures their products supposedly produce, and they rake in lots of money, too. Big Pharma is demonized for being a "for profit" industry. Well, guess what? The Alternative Treatments field is also a "for profit" industry (raking in $34 BILLION per year), only they have no oversight or regulatory committees keeping them in check, like the pharmaceutical industry does.

It is true that there have been some drugs that have been through testing and the approval process that ended up being recalled. But on the whole, the pharmaceutical industry is a blessing, not a curse.

Having said all that, I'm not entirely against herbs; I simply think Christians should approach them knowing first that they lack oversight, regulation and scientific evaluation. The biggest problem I see with herbs is that most people think (wrongly) that herbs, because they are "natural" (if you can even say that about a product that has been dried, condensed, and processed into supplement form), can ONLY help and NEVER do harm. This is not true. There are many accounts of herbal supplements being taken in dosages that are harmful to the body in some way and/or interact in a dangerous way with pharmaceutical drugs someone is already taking. Herbs are not automatically 100% benign just because they once had roots and grew in the ground.

A few articles to consider:
Should Christians go to doctors? (Got Questions?) 
Alternative Medicine Is a $34 Billion Industry, But Only One-Third of the Treatments Have Been Tested (Smithsonian Magazine) 
The Truth About Nutritional Supplements (Fitness Magazine, 10-01-2009) 
Safety and Regulation of Dietary Supplements (NPR radio interview, 7-16-2014) 
Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem (The New York Times) 
Alternative Medicine Fraud Warnings: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
Beware the Impurities in ‘Natural’ Supplements (Wall Street Journal) 
Dietary and Herbal Supplements Could Interfere With Prescription Drugs (Medical News Today) 
5 Risky Herbal Supplements: Even though they're natural, some herbal supplements can be dangerous (WebMD) 
Severe liver damage from certain dietary aid supplements (The Examiner) 
Safety and Regulation of Dietary Supplements (The Diane Rehm Show) 
Alternative medicines are popular, but do any of them really work? (The Washington Post) 
Apple founder Steve Jobs 'regretted trying to beat cancer with alternative medicine for so long' (The Telegraph, 10-21-11) 
Free online book examining the history of Alternative Treatments (Steve Ransom)
Also, please note that I am not completely against a measured, prayerful, mindful use of some herbs. My husband has a chronic, long-term illness, and we use a protocol of meds + herbs. I am against Christians uncritically taking in any and all claims made about herbs (and other alternative treatments) without looking for science based evidence that supports these claims. And I'm talking long-term clinical trials on humans, not just claims made by pseudoscience websites that base their recommendations on limited petri dish trials. Lots of substances kill cancer cells and germs in a petri dish (gasoline, turpentine, acid, etc.) but that doesn't mean we should ingest them. Herbs and oils are not automatically benign: they can be dangerous if misused and/or used in large dosages.


 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

 The Value and Importance of Scientific Studies 

The Biblical Worldview Is The Foundation of Modern Science

The Scientific Method and Why It Matters


 Cautions About "Natural" and Alternative Treatments 



Alternative Medicine: A Mind Blowing Magical Mystery Tour (This is a free, online e-book exposing the unsubstantiated claims [both currently and historically] made about many "natural" remedies)


Herbal Supplements May Not Mix With Heart Medicines (Mayo Clinic)

5 Risky Herbal Supplements: Even Though They're Natural, Some Herbal Supplements Can Be Dangerous (Web MD)

Apple founder Steve Jobs 'regretted trying to beat cancer with alternative medicine for so long' (The Telegraph, 10-21-11)


 Radio Programs Warning About Alternative Supplements 




 Warnings About Essential Oils 

The Christian and Essential Oils: A Few Thoughts [UPDATED] (Sola Sisters)

Essential Oils Revisited (Sola Sisters)

Aromatherapy: Biblical Path to Healing or Demonic Deception? (Chuck and Julie Cohen)

A Critique of David Stewart's Healing Oils of the Bible (Marcia Montenegro)

The FDA Warns Young Living, doTERRA Essential Oils Companies To Stop Making Unsubstantiated Claims That The Oils Cure Cancer, Protect Against Ebola (Food and Drug Administration, 9-22-2014)

How To Use Essential Oils: A Step-By-Step Guide (satire, warning: some mild language)


 Warnings About Homeopathy