Hazards of the Natural Product Industry
It can be so difficult, especially when you are ill, to fall victim to the claims of the natural product industry. It can be so enticing, but clever marketing often takes advantage of sick people looking for answers to chronic health issues. They have already been failed by modern medicine, and so, turn to natural therapies out of great desperation for health and healing.
Although I believe Nature to be the deepest, purest, most accessible way of healing, natural product companies & manufacturers do not always have the purest of intentions, nor the purest of products.
I have lived with many chronic health issues for much of my life, it seemed like one issue just grew into another one no matter what I tried. I was desperate for healing. I would have, and did, try anything I thought would help or listen to anyone that I thought had the answers.
I have learned so much through these painful experiences about True Healing and what actually defines health. I learned how to sift through the natural products industry, in which I include physical products, supplements, extracts, etc. as well as books, bloggers, and people who like to deem themselves authority over certain subjects, such as diet, detox, mind-body techniques, "exotic" healing therapies, etc.
I see many holistic practitioners, new on the scene, that get swept up in the excitement of discovering new therapies without enough contextual knowledge to really understand how the body actually functions and the true effects of these methods. I was once in that same mindset, but I learned the hard way that not everything works for everyone.
I certainly don’t know all there is to know, or even as much as I would like to know, but there are a few things I have picked up along the way that I think are helpful for anyone starting or deepening a journey into healing themselves naturally. I hope to help shed some light on certain pitfalls that can hopefully be avoided by those turning toward natural healing, as well as the practitioners out there trying to help these people.
If a product is claiming to cure all of your ills, it probably won’t. Be especially skeptical about businesses pushing exotic plant medicines, superfoods, or promising unrealistic claims. Often a product is might be based on scientific research but in many instances the method of delivery, dosage, or mechanism of action (the way it works) is taken out of context. More often, researchers isolate compounds out of a plant or substance and specifically research that one component.
This means they are just taking one piece of the complex inner workings of a plant or fungi and leaving behind all of the other synergistic puzzle pieces that work together in the process of biological assimilation. Also, much of this research is done on our little rat friends, whose bodies are quite different than our own, making some of this research difficult to apply to human health situations.
Purity, Processing, & Effectiveness
Clearly not all herbs, supplements, or superfoods are the same. What you grow in your garden is very different than dried out, stale herbs encapsulated and bottled, and sitting on a shelf for sometimes years. The supplement industry has very little oversight (which in many ways is actually a good thing) so it is up to the consumer to ask the right questions and seek out companies or producers that make high quality effective products. Learn more about this in my previous article…"Mass Market Herbalism, Before You Buy"
“Cleanses & Detox”
These get healthy quick schemes can be so appealing. Simply suffer for 7-10 days and then magically you will be healthier, happier, skinnier, have clearer skin, more energy or whatever it may be. I fell deep into the trap of the idea that because I was sick, my body was dirty and needed to be “cleansed”
I went from extreme to more extreme, and eventually developed an addictive relationship with extreme detox methods that probably did more harm than good. I would cleanse for few weeks, then try to eat perfect and when I would eventually “mess up” I would need to cleanse again. Although I ended up at the more extreme end of the spectrum, many detox kits or packages can actually be harmful to the health of certain individuals even in the short term.
Severely restricting calories and then overloading on supplements, herbs, powdered drink formulas of unknown origin, smoothies & juices (most of which are packed with fruit sugars) can cause hormonal and metabolic imbalances, inflammation of the digestive system, and be a shock to many organ systems. Not to mention if a person is on medications this could greatly alter the way it is absorbed or functions in the body.
I have learned over the years that quick purges and extreme restrictions are not ideal for most people that have chronic conditions and overly sensitive systems. But we are told to push through it. Keep going. If you feel sick, it’s working right? I have learned the hard way that a gentle approach is usually more balancing, highly effective, and creates longer lasting results. The shift towards a more healing lifestyle is a long term goal that needs to be integrated on an ongoing basis, and also offers a little flexibility.
Cleansing and detoxifying are ongoing processes that our body already has the intelligence to do. It is true that perhaps we are a bit overloaded with toxicity due to environmental and dietary factors, but this process can be supported in a way that is not such a shock to the system. Also, just taking into account the way the Liver and other detoxification organs function, many of the extreme methods aren’t even effective!
Now many of us would see great health changes from doing a bit of a dietary reset, removing inflammatory foods, and supporting deficiencies with specific nutritional supplements. There are many holistic practitioners and researchers doing amazing work around healing diets and protocols that are incredible for people with chronic health conditions. But I can tell you this kind of healing does not come in a box, and it is definitely not “one size fits all.”
Holistic Practitioners Do Not Have All of the Answers
This is a difficult one, as I myself am a holistic health practitioner. This is not to say there aren’t many incredible practitioners out there that are highly skilled and educated, but the sad truth is that not all of us really know what we are talking about sometimes. There are so many natural healing “myths” out there that aren’t based in science or on culturally traditional therapies.
Although most natural healing methods are quite safe, even in the hands of an unskilled practitioner, there are always possible risks, even with the best of intentions. People go to weekend workshops, or study a modality for 7 months or so and define themselves as knowing it all, which simply cannot be true. It is wonderful that so many people are being called to the healing arts, but let’s give it a little perspective. It used to be that a healer would apprentice for many years (usually at least 10 or so) before they were considered ready to practice without the guidance of their mentor)
I am in no way saying people shouldn’t be trying to help others long before that, but practitioners should still have the humility to be able to tell a client “I don’t know” if they don’t have the answers or the deep understanding to make a certain recommendation. It’s great to get advice and seek out healing help from a whole variety of practitioners, but be aware of the experience of a person and how that may skew the quality and legitimacy of the information they are giving you.
The Placebo Effect is Real
This is a great thing and a not so great thing depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, the belief that a natural product is going to help you, could help it, to actually help you! On the other hand, sometimes people attribute their healing to a product that might not actually be that great. I sincerely believe that people are healed in ways that we just can’t explain, or that don’t always make sense, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. The intelligence of the body is powerful, and sending messages through subconscious or conscious thought really can change the outcome of a situation, for good or for bad.
It’s Not Your Fault
So much guilt and shame is thrown around in natural healing circles that it is easy to start to believe that our health situation is all our own fault. Although we cannot avoid the responsibility of the choices we make that benefit or destroy our health, guilt is not usually transformative and can often make physical and emotional problems worse.
The messaging that gets thrown at us every day tells us that we wouldn’t be sick, or fat, or broke, or depressed, or whatever if we could just do better than we are already doing. Yes, a little slap of reality is important now and again, especially when someone is caught deeply in a sea of unhealthy habits.
What I am talking about though, is the overt messaging of ideas like the “Power of Positive Thinking” or the “Secret” or other mind over matter messaging, that essentially tells us we are not doing it right, or not good enough, or not thinking the right thoughts, or not trying hard enough, and so that is why we have ended up this way. Books, bloggers, and health guru’s often send the message that we need their special secret to overcome the innate defects in our minds and bodies, and/or simply “think” our way to health.
I believed wholeheartedly for so long, that if only I accomplished the impossible task of living up to my own standards I would be healed. If only I meditated enough, cleansed my liver more, ate the perfect diet, did an hour of yoga every day, took all the right supplements, read all of the right books, had only positive affirmations floating around in my head, and had absolutely no stress then I would finally be well! I always internalized that I was doing something wrong, otherwise I could live a normal life and not feel crappy all the time.
I am sure you hear it all the time... Why can’t they just quit smoking, drinking, or doing drugs? Why can’t they just be more positive instead of being down all the time? Why can’t they just be more easy going? Why don’t they just lose weight? Why don’t they exercise more, or eat less? Why can’t they just be happy? Of course we want to encourage those in our lives to be healthier, but we do not need to shame and guilt them into it.
Our own inner critic is often the harshest. Being kind with yourself, and taking an approach of observation rather than judgment can be more motivating than getting all caught up in the many things you “should” be doing. Yes, there are definite changes that many people need to make but often genetics, addictive patterning, the way we were raised, past trauma, and self-soothing habits play a roll, and should be considered before judging yourself or others. Having a little kindness and forgiveness for yourself goes a long way, and will ultimately be more healing and motivating in the long run.
You Don’t Need Expensive or Exotic Products to Find Healing
You won’t find True Healing on a shelf of a store, because it just isn’t that simple. Health and healing is complex and looks differently to everyone.
Ongoing, supportive healing habits, that are gentle and nourishing can often be found right at home.
Cultivating medicinal plants provide an abundance of healing that are consistently right at your fingertips. Integrating them into your food and lifestyle will generate so much healing that it is can make some natural products completely unnecessary.
They will be vibrant, loaded with nutrients, and easily assimilated by the body. Why pay for what you can have for almost free? Especially if it is actually better, fresher, and often delicious!