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Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.

Poll

I think traditional medicine is

hooey and hokum
mostly hooey and hokum
a 50/50 mix of legitimate and hooey
mostly legitimate
legitimate

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Author Topic: Science vs Nature  (Read 4770 times)

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side_show

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Science vs Nature
« on: February 02, 2012, 09:49:16 pm »

The past couple weeks my arthritis has flared up very severely, worse than ever before.  The pain is debilitating, and worse still I can barely sleep because of it.  I can't take pain med's because of having destroyed my stomach through a combo of previous use of pain med's for the same condition and sever food poisoning.  If I do take something (OTC) I get mild alleviation for a brief period, but nothing that lasts.

I was telling one of my coworkers about this when one of our traditional elders joined our conversation.  He said he "has a guy" and would consult with him.  So first thing this morning, the elder shows up with a paper bag full of dried traditional medicines, carefully hand labelled "arthritis" that I am to boil up and drink three times a day.  The smell from this bag is intimidatingly unfamiliar, intense, medicinal yet somewhat pleasant.  I'm feeling uncertain about if I want to take this medicine or not.  I trust this elder, and such an offering of trust is in itself an honour.  The thing is, having interviewed elders in the past, and read up on traditional medicine I know that some of the stuff is very powerful.  For example, I've interviewed the relatives of traditional medicine practitioners who had a hand in the creation of what became known as Aspirin.  The appropriation of a traditional treatment that was then developed for the mass market lead many traditional practitioners to become secretive about their practices.  What's the secrecy about? Partially it's about preventing the exploitation of the minimal traditional resources that are out there, and about coming from a culture where so much abuse from outside sources has caused a turning inward.  Still, anyone with an ounce of pessimism can guess some of the other base causes of secrecy - some of the stuff practitioners are doing, if examined might be found to be ineffective, while other aspects could be found to be harmful.  So here I am, with my doubting mind and a bag full of plant bits with a choice to make. 

I was informed when given the medicines that I will now need to make an offering of tobacco to the medicine man, which is the traditional response to someone responding to a request for help.  That the dude is asking for the traditional offering (rather than money) and also that he is working with an elder I respect says something positive.

I don't know.  Thoughts?
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Victoria Waterfield

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 10:09:57 pm »

Humans are very good at seeing correlations, even where they don't really exist, and most traditional healers would have had very small sample sizes to work with, so it shouldn't be surprising that a fair bit of traditional medicine is ineffective. The fact that the placebo effect is actually very strong no doubt has a part in this, too.
That said, a lot of traditional healers did discover real, effective treatments. Aspirin, as you point out, began as a traditional medicine, made from willow bark, but it's one of the most effective medicines ever discovered.
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pmcd9

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 10:25:52 pm »

This sounds exciting to me.  I'm normally pretty skeptical about this kind of thing, but that's because hippies are so full of shit, but this is quite different.  I say you've got nothing to lose.  The worse that can come of it, aside from having to drink some nasty tea, is it won't work.  If you have unpleasant side effects you can just stop taking it.

I say go for it.
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wombat

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 10:26:47 pm »

I'm thinking that if this stuff was actually bad for people, that's a correlation that would have been obvious.  So maybe the worst that can happen is nothing?

Also, don't knock the placebo effect. It's a wonderful thing for everyone except scientists trying to study drugs. If you believe in this stuff it might help.

Personally, I would probably be afraid to take it, but I am also afraid to take Western medicine.
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jaydub

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 10:35:36 pm »

I come down mostly on the hooey and hokum side, due to living in California where all sorts of people who should know better get going down some new age-y rathole or another in search of "TRUTH".  I think your situation is different than what I encounter day to day here though.  If I was you, I'd approach this from the social transaction point of view.  You're being provided a way to participate in a deeply meaningful exchange, something that if nothing else helps weave you into a social support network.  Any number of studies show that people who are well connected to their neighbors and family do better in managing their chronic illnesses.
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miles

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 02:05:36 am »

I'm too short on time to read the thread, but 1) I'm disappointed that this isn't a battle between two publications and 2) if this is a discussion on whether people should smoke weed and eat mushrooms to deal with stress and depression, I am all for it.

But keep your hands off of my xanax.
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pmcd9

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2012, 02:11:57 am »

I want to party with Miles.
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KeithHernandez

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 03:07:58 am »

The only problem with that is that LSD and E are the two most uplifting of all the drugs, in my experience at least.

Taking a hit of LSD is fuck*ng therapy, there is no other way to describe it.  It works for months too.

(takting two or more hits of LSD is fuck*ng fun)


Also, being from Oklahoma and not California, I met a lot of Native Americans (sorry if this is not the preferred term, it always seemed wrong to me for whatever reason) and was particularly close with one of my Native American anthropology professors.  This guy was in my top three professors.  He was seriously flawed as a professor (I got a B in the second class of his I took because he could not stick to his notes so even with every lecture and all the reading some of the test questions were just absolutely random), but when he was lecturing about something he cared about it was fuck*ng awesome.  He really believed in traditional medicines and I have used a few of the things he said to with great results.  Usually it makes it way worse, then gets it out of your system, but this is like the stomach flu, not arthritis.  I would think what Wombat said is right- it may or may not work, but it definitely won't hurt.

I would be excited to try it, if I were in your position.

Oh, one more thing about that professor.  I wrote about the traditional peyote use (sorry for being lame/stereotypical, but mainly I was just making it easy by writing about something I knew) for the first class of his I took and used some of my experiences learning about myself and the world through psychedelics to write a paper detailing all of the benefits/positives of the practice.  He hugged me in front of class after he read it!  It was pretty awesome.
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side_show

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2012, 04:43:13 am »

Thanks for that post Keith. 

I suppose what I need right now is some hope, because my physical situation is pretty unbearable. So, with what most of you have said, I do think it's worth a try.  After I got home I poked around in the bag and recognized a few of the contents - maybe two or three out of two dozen or more contents.  The things I recognize, from what I know, are plants that have been used for generations.  It's pretty beautiful to look into a bag and know every part was picked, preserved and blended with the intent to heal and alleviate pain.

One thought I had today: I wish I had access to some marijuana.  I gave it up many years ago after a dark period of using it to hide from my emotions for extended periods of time. Now I feel psychologically strong, but instead want a release from my physical pain without stomach problems and a little weed would be a good solution. 
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Doc

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2012, 03:41:18 pm »

I voted for mostly hooey, but I'd like to justify it by saying that my view most of the time is 'If it works for you and it isn't costing you a bunch of money, go ahead.' Absolute worst case scenario is it does sweet f a on a biochemical level but it makes you feel good using it and there's nothing at all wrong with that. Environmental and psychological factors have just as much to do with our health as the nitty gritty of what our body is actually doing, especially when we're talking about pain. This sounds like you've been given something out of kindness and community and have an opportunity to have an experience that might be beneficial to you on a spiritual and cultural level as well as a physical one, so it seems like a reasonable idea to me.

Just a quick shout-out for western medicine: I take it you've got osteo, not rheumatoid arthritis? Because If it's the latter there are treatment options you can (and should, since it's a progressive disease) pursue beyond simple pain relief (since you've had stomach problems I assume the pain killers you were talking about were NSAIDs like ibuprofen etc?).

While I'm on a tear: The problem with traditional medicines or natural medicines isn't that they don't work, quite a few of them do (though they don't always do what it says on the tin). The bigger issue is that anything that has an effect has a side effect. There also tends to be a lot of variation in purity from preparation to preparation because these compounds just aren't regulated like drugs are (this works in the supplement industry's favour - who are making just as much as Big Pharma by the way, but that's a whole other rant). St John's Wort is a well known example, it's an effective antidepressant but it can also interfere with metabolism of other drugs via the liver so you should let people know if you're on it. Black Cohosh is used for lots of different things but the only but there's more than a few cases of people developing hepatitis while using it.

So I guess I'd modify my position to 'if it makes you feel good and it doesn't cost a bunch of money and it's not known to leave your liver a shrivelled lumpy piece of jerky then go for it'.
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Nabubrush

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2012, 04:34:46 am »

Watch out for the lorazepam.
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Doc

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2012, 06:50:23 am »

Also oxycontin, that's some bad shit.
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Jaded Tersk

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2012, 07:39:56 am »

I voted for 'mostly legitimate'.  By traditional medicine you mean herbs 'n' shit, right?  Valerian can help people.  Marijuana can help people.  Obviously, in a new-agey unregulated market like that, a whole heap of people are trying to sell you some hokum snake oil, hence the bad reputation. 

It's too bad you have chronic pain.  I don't think anyone who has not suffered chronic, constant pain can ever really 'get' what it's like to have that.  Chronic pain is such a curse that just being in the same house as a chronic pain sufferer can make healthy people feel completely dong-razzled.

So I would encourage you to find a little bit of marijuana.
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side_show

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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2012, 02:09:20 pm »

Yeah, I am talking actual traditional medicine of the sort practiced over hundreds of years and produced by a person trained on understandings passed down over generations: a medicine man, a Chinese medicine practitioner, that sort of thing.  Not the "walk into a health food shop and be advised by a weirdo with no training"stuff.

Doc pointed out something that I hadn't considered, which is that with my sort of arthritis - osteo with non-specific rheumatoid symptoms - there are probably some treatments of the western type I should also be looking into.  My doctor is mostly a dick (which is why I avoid these conversations with him), but is alright as far as being a practitioner.  I had a full check-up yesterday with a full inflammation marker blood panel pulled and will be back in in a couple of weeks for results.  Once the results are in, the next step will most likely be seeing a rheumatologist.  I also saw my podiatrist on Monday, and have an assignment to get new winter boots ASAP as well.

I just realized that that odd medicinal smell from the bag of herbs is not so unfamiliar.  It smells a lot like when I'm in Chinatown and pass the traditional medicine shop there.  I'm still hesitating on taking the stuff.  I will eventually try it out.  Maybe next weekend.
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Re: Science vs Nature
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2012, 02:47:38 pm »

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