What is a Natural Health Consultant--Naturopath--Herbalist
  by James Occhiogrosso, N.D.


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A Natural Health Consultant/Herbalist is a highly trained professional that specializes in the use of herbs, vitamins, lifestyle, and natural substances and techniques for supporting good health. He is not a medical doctor, and a natural health consultation is not the same as seeing a medical doctor. Many are also Naturopaths with diplomas like N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathy) and M.H. (Master Herbalist). They have extensive training and knowledge of your body’s systems, as well as advanced training in nutrition and the properties of herbs, vitamins and other nutrients and their effects on the human body. A consultation with a natural health professional is intended to complement—not replace a visit to your medical doctor.

The principles of Natural Health are based on a belief in the body’s innate God-given ability to maintain itself in good health when given an appropriate healthy environment. Natural Health Consultants, Naturopaths and Herbalists are not involved in the practice of medicine. They do not prescribe drugs or pharmaceuticals or perform any invasive procedures. They do assess a person’s overall health situation and may make recommendations regarding herbs, food supplements, and nutrition or lifestyle changes.

For many people, their first exposure to herbal or nutritional supplements comes when they begin having health problems. They visit a health food store and ask a salesperson what can help with their condition. The clerk then shows them some products advertised for their particular condition. In a way, this is similar to how conventional medicine uses drugs—using a substance, be it natural or pharmaceutical, that will alleviate the symptoms they are experiencing.

This “symptom treatment” is a serious failure of our conventional thinking. Treating symptoms without looking for their underlying causes is not good practice, but unfortunately, it is quite typical. The paragraph below is a direct quote from the preface of my book about treating symptoms in this manner:

“If you wear shoes that are too small, your feet will hurt! There are two possible solutions to this problem. You can treat the symptoms with painkillers to dull the pain, or you can attack the problem at its source by getting shoes that fit properly. It is obvious that the first solution—while it will likely work in the short term—does nothing to rectify the root problem.”

The clerk in the health food store scenario above may know a product that is sold for a particular condition, but he is unlikely to have specific knowledge of its ingredients or clinical actions in the body.

More importantly, the clerk has little knowledge of the customer’s health history or any pharmaceuticals the customer is taking. Thus, he has no idea if a particular herb or herbal supplement will interfere with a condition the customer is being medically treated for, or a drug the customer is using. This is crucial!

Herbal remedies are not always benign. Just because they are natural, does not mean they are not capable of causing harm. A consumer, consulting with an uninformed health food store clerk, can easily become his own worst enemy without realizing it. Fortunately, most of the herbs sold in health food stores in the USA are relatively benign—and as a result, their serious side effects are somewhat limited.

Consumers need to be aware of some facts about herbs. First, that the bulk of prescription drugs were originally derived from herbal sources, and second, that many herbal supplements can be as powerful as prescription medications and likewise, can cause harm if used unwisely.

A trained Natural Health Practitioner/Herbalist knows his client’s medical history, prescription drug use, and overall health. He also knows which products may be helpful for his client, and more importantly, which may cause harm, undesired effects, or interfere with a prescription drug his client is using.

To really understand this, we can look at some specific examples. Many plants, particularly those that grow in tropical climates, are high in coumarin, a natural plant chemical. Coumarin is a powerful natural blood thinner. Its concentration varies from species to species, but in some tropical plants, its concentration can reach ten percent. About sixty or so years ago, coumarin was discovered by scientists and modified to make a patentable, prescription drug called Coumadin (Warfarin). This drug is used today as a blood thinner—mostly for people at risk of stroke. Herbal supplements produced from plants high in coumarin can potentiate the effects of Warfarin and other drugs used to thin the blood, and can combine with the drugs to cause serious uncontrolled bleeding.

Considering that about seventy percent of the American public has tried some kind of herbal medication, it is amazing that there has not been more serious problems. The saving item is that only about 150 herbs are commonly sold in this country and most of them are relatively benign. However, as more and more powerful and exotic herbal remedies are produced, it is inevitable that more problems will surface.

The FDA’s solution is to force reporting of any possible adverse effect and blindly ban any herbal product that causes one. In the past, this has resulted in several useful herbs being banned for little reason. A more reasonable solution is to educate consumers that they should not be using powerful, exotic herbal remedies without the assistance of a knowledgeable Natural Health Practitioner/Herbalist.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 65 to 80 percent of the world’s population relies on herbal and holistic medicine for primary health care. Only about twenty percent of the world’s population uses conventional pharmaceuticals and most of that cohort is in the USA. Yet, the percentage of adverse events from pharmaceutical drugs in the USA is far, far greater than the worldwide use of herbal and holistic remedies. However, in the rest of the world, the population relies on trained practitioners to prescribe herbal remedies in a manner similar to how we rely on conventional medical doctors to prescribe drugs.

Would any reader of this article walk into a local pharmacy with a self-generated shopping list of medications—created without consulting a qualified medical professional? Aside from the illegality of such an action, it could also be deadly! Who among us, in a non-suicidal frame of mind, would even consider it?

But in reality, many folks will stroll casually into a supplement store with a self-generated shopping list, and pick items off the shelf as desired. While they may have done some on-line research about the supplements they are choosing, they lack the knowledge, training and resources to know of potential side effects, interference with medical conditions, interference with proscription drugs, reputability of the manufacturer, purity and freshness of the product, and possible undesired effects on body systems.

Summarizing, it is unwise for someone to attempt to self-medicate with herbal medications. Internet research can be notoriously unreliable, and much of it comes from product manufacturers with a larger interest in profit than scientific accuracy. The extensive training and knowledge of a Natural Health Practitioner/Herbalist can prevent at a minimum, wasting money on useless supplements, and at a maximum, endangering your health!

If you would like more information, this article from NaturalNews.Com provides an excellent comparison of naturopathy vs. conventional medicine. 

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