Pharmaceutical Drugs vs Natural Remedies - When To Choose Which?

Pharmaceutical Drugs vs Natural Remedies - When To Choose Which?

Have you ever listened to a pharmaceutical drugs commercial list the potential side effects?

The side effects are often more disturbing than the condition the medication was designed to treat, and this is why so many consumers are now embracing natural remedies. 

From essential oils to herbs and lifestyle modification, there are natural remedies that can help ease the symptoms of most illnesses experienced today.

The problem for most people is determining when it’s safe to use natural remedies and when it’s necessary to make a doctor appointment or fill the prescription.

This comes down to a variety of factors that vary depending on circumstances, but there are some basic rules that may help you make this decision for yourself and your loved ones.

Natural Remedies vs Pharmaceutical Drugs

When Pharmaceutical Drugs are Best 

While most conditions respond well to natural remedies alone or a combination of natural and pharmaceutical treatments, there are some circumstances in which pharmaceutical drugs and other medical interventions are the best options: 

  • Your condition is life threatening if you don’t take immediate action with the most effective treatment available. You simply don’t have time to experiment with a natural remedy, so it’s best to treat the immediate threat according to medical advice. You can use natural treatments later to overcome side effects of the treatment and strengthen your body for a healthier future.
  • You tried natural remedies first, but your condition is only getting worse. If you’ve given the natural treatments an adequate amount of time to work, perhaps a prescription drug will deliver better results.
  • You’re treating a child. Some natural remedies are safe for children when administered correctly, but many parents lack experience and technical knowledge that is needed to determine what’s safe for children of different ages. For this reason, many parents see their doctors for guidance before using any treatment on a child, natural or pharmaceutical.
  • You are in extremely poor health. You may improve your condition with the use of natural treatments, but you should check with your doctor to make sure that your natural products don’t interact negatively with your prescription medications. We’ll discuss integrative medicine and the highly beneficial practice of blending alternative and pharmaceutical treatments in a moment.

You’ll notice that there aren’t as many circumstances that favor pharmaceuticals as there are circumstances that favor natural remedies (listed below).

Some doctors won’t recommend natural treatments because they simply aren’t trained in their use and may not know their benefits.

Most doctors spend very little time learning about nutrition and exercise while in medical school, and most never learn about the healthy use of oils, massage and other alternative treatments.

This leaves many patients on their own when it comes to finding alternatives to pharmaceuticals, but you have many resources that make it possible today.

For starters, this website is a wealth of information for those ready to take control of their health.

If you do decide to use pharmaceuticals, do your research. Listen carefully to what the prescribing doctor says about the treatment, and then ask a lot of questions.

Many patients think of that as the ending point, but it’s actually just the beginning of your research.

Look the pharmaceutical drugs up online to determine the full list of potential side effects, paying close attention to any previous lawsuits that have involved the drug.

Don’t assume that the side effects listed by your doctor are the full story.

Doctors often aren’t aware of every possible side effect, and some will downplay the severity or your chance of experiencing the side effect.

You can learn more by looking it up online from a reputable source, including through the drug manufacturer’s website.

You may also want to look up scientific studies into the side effects and effectiveness of the drug.  

Listen to the experience of others through chat rooms and message forums, but remember that not everyone has the same reaction to every medication.

Talk to other people at work, church or in your social circle to see if anyone else has taken the drug.

When to Take Natural Remedies

You don’t have to look too hard to find medical professionals who insist that natural remedies don’t work and pharmaceuticals are the only way to go.

The problem with this argument is that many natural remedies have been used for thousands of years with great success.

The fact that they aren’t as heavily researched by the medical community as pharmaceutical drugs doesn’t mean that they’re ineffective.

There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of anecdotal stories that support the use of many natural remedies, so they clearly do work for some people.

There are certain circumstances in which it makes sense to try natural remedies, including:

  • You have given pharmaceuticals a try, and they aren’t delivering effective results. You might consider adding natural remedies to your prescription drugs for a well-rounded treatment plan. We’ll talk more about combining the two in just a moment.
  • Your doctor wants to prescribe a medication that comes with some scary potential side effects. If the condition isn’t life threatening without immediate and aggressive treatment, you might consider trying natural remedies first.
  • You have a chronic condition that isn’t life threatening, but which interferes with your quality of life. For instance, many people with seasonal allergies, asthma, depression, anxiety, insomnia and acne use natural remedies successfully.
  • A medical professional has suggested that making lifestyle changes could help with your condition. For instance, they may say that you need to lose weight, eat healthier foods or take a fish oil supplement. These recommendations often mean that changing your lifestyle to include healthy fats like coconut oil, exercising and getting more sleep can work in your favor. These are all forms of natural remedies or alternative treatments.
  • You don’t have access to medical care, or your pharmaceutical drugs are creating a financial hardship. In this case, you have nothing to lose by trying natural remedies. Natural treatment is better than no treatment. If the natural remedies work, you can save a lot of money as the cost of many pharmaceuticals continues to rise.
  • The prescription medication that you’re taking is based on a natural plant or herb. Some pharmaceuticals are themselves rooted in natural resources. In this case, you may find that just taking the natural product is more cost effective.
  • The condition you want to treat is considered cosmetic or isn’t medically essential. For instance, natural remedies are often used to fight the signs of aging or treat skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis. There are pharmaceuticals for many of these conditions, but there are also many effective natural treatments available.

If you decide to use natural remedies, keep in mind that many plants have medicinal properties.

If they’re effective at easing symptoms of an illness or stimulating other changes in your body, there’s also a risk that they can trigger negative reactions if used incorrectly.

This can mean taking them at dosages that are too high, over a long period of time, or with improper preparation.

For example, some essential oils aren’t safe for ingestion while others cause problems when applied directly to the skin without a carrier oil.

It’s important to research the potential side effects for natural remedies just as you would research a pharmaceutical drug.

Many herbs and plants aren’t as well researched as pharmaceutical drugs, so you may need to go on their historical uses and anecdotal evidence.

It’s also important to ensure that you buy pure, high-quality natural remedies.

Also keep in mind that some herbs, spices and plants can interact negatively with prescription medications.

We’ll talk more about mixing the two in the next section.

Pharmaceutical Drugs vs Natural Remedies

What If I Need Antibiotics?

If there’s one thing that will send most people to the doctor’s office, it’s a medical condition that isn’t getting better.

Some conditions require antibiotics before the symptoms will improve, but pharmaceutical antibiotics aren’t your only options.

Consider this short list of some of the most effective natural antibiotics:

  • Honey – Fresh honey has several defenses that can disarm and destroy many bacteria that cause illness in humans. It’s not safe for children under the age of one. Mix it into your tea, take it raw off a spoon, or apply it directly to surface infections.
  • Thyme Essential Oil – Always dilute thyme oil with olive or coconut oil before application, and never swallow it. Research has shown that it effectively kills many bacteria with topical application.
  • Oregano Essential Oil – It’s best to use this oil through diffusion. Inhalation allows it to enter the body and combat bacteria, helping to heal infections naturally. You can also use it topically, but you should first mix it with water.

Keep in mind that antibiotics aren’t needed for every cold or round of the flu you pick up.

Overuse can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are difficult to kill even with pharmaceuticals.

You may want to check with your doctor to make sure that you need an antibiotic before taking these natural remedies.

You can accept a prescription and then fill it only if the natural remedy doesn’t work.

Many natural antibiotics are used for skin infections.

For instance, if you think a cut on your finger is too red and swollen, a little thyme or oregano essential oil may stop in from becoming a more serious infection.

Can You Use Natural Remedies and Pharmaceutical Drugs?

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of using natural and pharmaceutical medications, but there are times when using them together is effective.

For instance, it’s common for professional herbalists to give herbal or naturopathic treatments to patients already taking prescription medications.

While the pharmaceuticals combat the primary symptom or condition, the herbal remedies support bodily systems or functions that are distressed by the primary condition.

This is a way of giving the body what it needs to recover from an illness faster.

An example of this is taking natural remedies that boost the immune system while also taking pharmaceuticals that negatively impact the immune system.

If you decide to go this route, it’s important to tell your doctor about the natural remedies you’re using.

This may change the type of medications that they prescribe, and it gives your medical team a chance to help you select more natural remedies that may help you further.

You can also explore natural remedies through a medical center offering integrative medicine.

These clinics often employ medical doctors as well as professionals with expertise in a variety of natural remedies, including:

  • Reiki
  • Acupuncture
  • Ayurveda
  • Massage
  • Hypnosis
  • Aroma Therapy
  • Meditation

These centers also rely heavily on nutrition and exercise, but you don’t necessarily need professional guidance to treat medical conditions through lifestyle change.

You can learn about over-the-counter supplements, essential oils and fresh, healthy foods without a medical team.

Learning about nutrition, exercise science and healthy oils on your own will help you find effective natural remedies without paying for expensive tests or relying exclusively on doctors. 

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