Converting the Herbal Skeptics

| 5/30/2008 3:55:31 PM

Yesterday afternoon at the doctor's office, the young-ish physician commented on how great my scar looked for a month-old incision. I told him this was because I had been applying calendula and elder lotion several times a day and aloe as often as I remembered. Which, since it's sitting five feet from my desk, is relatively often.

And it happened again: I got The Look. You know, the glazed-eye, waiting-for-this-to-pass, vaguely curious stare -- the same look visitors to foreign lands give quaint natives who try to explain their odd religious practices. I might as well have said I had rubbed my incision with an ointment made of frog poop, baby drool and eye of potato for all the sense my statement seemed to make to the surgeon.

The truly pathetic thing is, as soon as an expensive medicine is developed from extracts of elder, calendula and aloe, and promoted by a pharmaceutical rep with all the right swag to hand out -- key chains, sticky notes, embossed pens -- this physician will climb on board in a heartbeat and be wildly enthusiastic about this "new" treatment for healing incisions.

I would so love the medical establishment to get hip to herbs before this predictable step, but even eternally optimistic I have to admit it's a long shot.

The best hope, I think, is to support the work of The American Botanical Council, which is to plant medicines what the American Medical Association is to medical doctors. The ABC provides the latest well-researched information on medicinal herbs, citing scientific studies from all over the world and fearlessly calling "foul" when the herb doesn't match up to the hype. (Probably the fact that its studies come from around the world is yet another reason why doctors like the young surgeon in question would instantly discount the information -- after all, how could India have scientific studies? -- but maybe if enough of us pay sufficient attention and arm ourselves with enough good science, we'll eventually turn around this Titanic medical system we have and find ourselves with inexpensive, healthful remedies that have worked with the human body for eons.)

In the meantime, I think it's irresponsible at worst and clueless at best that every burn unit and surgical practice in the country doesn't have pots of aloe growing everywhere, and shelves lined with calendula lotion. And maybe some of that frog poop and baby drool stuff ...

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