Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Caution About Alternative/Naturopathic/Holistic Treatments

Posted by Sola Sisters

photo credit: snowpea&bokchoi via photopin cc
Over the last decade, there has been a growing movement within the church to "demonize" the FDA and "Big Pharma" (a pejorative term used to describe the pharmaceutical industry), and to embrace alternative products marketed as "natural." This is a tricky thing to navigate because it is true that not all that the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA do is good (given that they are run by sinful men), and not all that is "alternative" or "natural" is bad. This matter is further complicated by the fact that those in the alternative industry often employ pseudo-scientific language (i.e., language that appears to be scientifically based, but is not). Also, sellers of alternative treatments, many of whom are genuinely motivated to help others, are under little to no regulatory oversight, and often have little to no training in diagnosing and/or treating illness.

In order to clarify our position about where we stand on Alternative Treatments vs. Traditional Western Medicine, below are some of our articles about various alternative treatments that we've discussed in recent months, as well as a list of helpful links and resources. Our concerns are twofold for the Christian:

(1) Our primary concern is spiritual in nature: the vast majority of alternative/naturopathic/holistic treatments are undergirded with New Age philosophies and beliefs which can expose Christians to beliefs and ideas about the human body, the world and sin that are unbiblical. These views are often panentheistic and/or pagan in nature (i.e.,Deifying or attributing holiness or supernatural ability to products marketed as "natural").

(2) Our secondary concern, but still an important one, is physical in nature: due to the unregulated nature of the alternative industry, these unregulated products (a) may not do what they claim to do, and (b) might not even be what they claim to be.

photo credit: veo_ via photopin cc
These are difficult areas to navigate. This is not helped by the fact that most alternative treatments today are being presented as being scientific (i.e., pseudo-science). But just because a practitioner wears a white lab coat and uses scientific jargon and terminology does not mean that the alternative treatments being presented have undergone the kind of rigorous scientific testing and trials that a medicine would have. Also, in the same way that medicine can be misused and misdiagnoses can be made, with fatal consequences, herbs (and other alternative treatments) can also be misused and misdiagnoses can be made, sometimes with fatal consequences. The underlying issue here is that many today have the mistaken notion that just because something is "natural" that it can only help and never do harm. This is not the reality.

I would also like to make note of the fact that the FDA, which acts as a regulatory mechanism, serves an important function. Again, I recognize that it is an imperfect system. However, having an imperfect regulatory mechanism in place is far better than having zero regulatory oversight. What does "zero regulatory oversight" look like? It doesn't look like Utopia, I assure you, with all sellers of alternative products Doing Only Good For the Betterment of Mankind. We know better than that, don't we? A recent Canadian study of 44 over-the counter alternative supplements found that the active ingredients contained within the bottle did not always match up to what the label on the front of the bottle stated, with some products having been replaced entirely with filler. In other words, without oversight, however imperfect, a bottle labeled "100% Pure Lavender Essential Oil" could be nothing more than corn oil and artificial fragrance. A bottle labeled "100% Pure Chamomile" could be nothing more than grass clippings from some Chinese farmer's field. This is what happens when there is money to be made, and no oversight over products. (For more on this, please read these articles:
[1] The Unregulated Nature of the Alternative Treatment Industry: Does The Label On The Outside Tell The Truth About What's Inside? 
[2] Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem 
[3] Massive Herbal-Supplement Scam Uncovered: Walmart, Target, GNC Accused of Selling Bogus Products (What's In those Supplements?)
One's own medical treatment is a very personal topic, as anyone who has ever endured a health crisis can attest to. We are simply presenting the resources below to, hopefully, be a blessing to those with questions and concerns about the alternative treatment industry. To begin with, we highly recommend these resources first:
Natural = Better? (Sola Sisters)
The Scientific Method and Why It Matters
Supplements and Safety (PBS Interview, 1-19-16)
Vitamins and Supplements (PBS Interview, 2-13-14)
Does the Root Word of "Pharmaceutical" (Pharmakeia/φαρμακεία) Mean That Pharmaceutical Drugs Are Rooted In the Occult/Sorcery? (Sola Sisters)
Wellness: The New Age Trojan Horse in Healthcare (Marcia Montenegro)
Update: Ingrid Schlueter Interviews Marcia Montenegro and Christine Pack (Crosstalk at VCY America 4/26/11) to Discuss The Wellness Article - you may listen here
Alternative Medicine: A Mind Blowing Magical Mystery Tour  (Free, online e-book exposing the unsubstantiated claims [both currently and historically] made about many "natural" remedies)
The Unregulated Nature of the Alternative Treatment Industry: Does The Label On The Outside Tell The Truth About What's Inside? (Sola Sisters)
Are We All Syncretists Now? A Conversation About Evangelical Christianity and Alternative Medicine with Historian Candy Gunther Brown (Dr. Al Mohler)
What Christians Need to Know about Alternative Medicine: An Interview With Candy Gunther Brown (Christianity Today, 10-22-2013)
And for further study, please feel free to look through some of the resources linked below.

 General Resources 

Organic Food, Essential Oils, and the Gospel of Grace (Desiring God)

Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem (The New York Times)

A Compilation of Resources Re: Alternative Treatments (In Plain Site)

Alternative Medicine Fraud Warnings: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The Debate About GMO Safety is Over (Forbes Magazine)

The Whole Foods Movement and the Developing World

Hospitals: A New Dark Age? (Marcia Montenegro)

Basic Questions on Alternative Treatments

No Scientific Evidence For "Chi" or "Qi" (NYU Langone Medical Center)

The Scientific Method and Why It Matters

The Truth About Nutritional Supplements (Fitness Magazine, 10-01-2009)

Safety and Regulation of Dietary Supplements (NPR radio interview, 7-16-2014)

Dietary And Herbal Supplements Could Interfere With Prescription Drugs (Medical News Today)

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)

Warning: Herbal Supplements Don't Always Go Well With Heart Drugs (U.S. News and World Report)

Severe liver damage from certain dietary aid supplements  (Examiner, links to archived New York Times article, 11-3-13)

Tapping: The Next Big Thing in Alternative Medicine
 (Sola Sisters)

Problems with Alternative Medicine
 (Marcia Montenegro)

 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)

Why Essential Oils Companies Aren't "Natural" (Kid Nurse)

House of Cards: A Toxic Combination of Essential Oils and Multi-Level Marketing (Kid Nurse)

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 Essential Oil Toxicity 

Essential Oil Safety: Documented Side Effects, Injuries, and Deaths from Essential Oil Ingestion (Hub Pages)

Essential Oil Claims - The Dangers Keep On Coming (Skeptoid)

Eucalyptus Oil and Essential Oils Poisoning (The Royal Children's Hospital - Melbourne, AU)

Can Aromatherapy Oils Poison You? How Tiny Particles 'May Damage Liver and Kidneys' (Daily Mail, UK)

Hidden Dangers of Essential Oils: The Frightening Truth About Natural Remedies Such as Olbas Oil Which Can Cause Heart Problems, Convulsions and Eye Ulcers (Daily Mail, UK)

Danger for Cats: Essential Oils (Articulate Animals Blog)

Warning About Peppermint Oil Overdose (New York Times)

Shannon: Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed.

Toxic Effects of Essential Oils - Addresses Oils Taken Orally and Externally (The Research Pedia)

 Sola Sisters Facebook Wall Threads - Essential Oils 

Sola Sisters Facebook wall - February 23, 2014
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - April 24, 2014
Sola Sisters Facebook wall -April 26, 2014
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - June 28, 2014 (general warning about essential oils) 
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - June 30, 2014 (critique of essential oils/YL by Chuck and Julie Cohen)
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - July 11, 2014 (should Christians partner with companies who market their products with unbiblical spiritual concepts?)
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - July 28, 2014 (discussion re: Sola Sisters' concerns about YL/alternative)

 John Ankerberg Resources and Articles