"Too many people choose to pop pills rather than make healthful life style and 
taste preference changes."     -Human Nature News

Abuse of
Nutritional Supplements

by Jim Meuninck

Above:  Indigenous dancers, Oaxaca, Mexico annual dance festival.  

Nepalese mountain farmers packing betel nut and roots to Katmandu market, a 15 mile trek one way.

Above: May Day celebration
Beijing, China.

There are 6 billion people on the planet, most cannot afford herbal pharmaceuticals, yet they thrive.  In this world of extremes, are we gulping more pills than we need?  


Global Excesses   

Can we abuse the use of vitamins, herbs, minerals and other natural health chemicals?   Yes we can.  A few years ago only healthfood stores carried a full line of nutritional supplements.  Today they are stocked by everyone: superstores, drug stores, gas stations, grocers.  Herbal hype is everywhere.  This is big business, with the potential for oversell and overuse.

St. John's Wort for example: In one superstore this herb is stacked six feet high in fifteen foot rows.  This plant extract keeps neurotransmitter chemistry (serotonin) high by inhibiting its re-uptake.   Some say the use of this herb is natural therapy, but is it natural to use this herb long term to "fool" brain chemistry into doing something unnatural?  Evidence is beginning to accumulate that the chronic, long term use of St. John's Wort may have undesirable side effects.

There are people who use Echinacea extracts like daily supplements.  They take Echinacea tea, Echinacea pills and Echinacea fluid extracts to fight their chronic disease problems.  This is folly, commensurate to taking antibiotics daily to prevent infections--like crying "wolf" to your immune system until it doesn't answer.   

Recently, Aristolochia fangchi, containing aristocholic acid, has been removed from the American marketplace for causing irreversible kidney damage.  The herb a component of several weight loss formulas caused kidney damage and cancer in 18 patients in a Belgian weight loss clinic.

Vitamin overdose is chronic with many people.  More and more friends and associates are taking larger doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, B-vitamins and the like.   This is not only a waste of money, but may be harmful.   Do megadoses of vitamin C potentiate atherosclerosis?   Maybe.   Is there a link between cancer and megadoses of vitamin C?   Super doses of Vitamin C in the presence of Iron supplements may cause genetic damage and may potentiate atherosclerosis.

In the realm of minerals, folks are popping large amounts of selenium and chromium that may accumulate to toxic levels.  These are necessary trace minerals for superior health, but at large doses they are toxic. 

My philosophy concerning megadoses of nutritional supplements is the same as my beliefs on taking any drug:  For potentially life threatening  emergencies only...And only in the hands of a skilled, licensed holistic health care practitioner.  Chronic illness will not be resolved by gobbling pills alone.  Help your body heal itself.  Eat quality foods you have grown that are nutrient and phytochemical rich.  Exercise daily.  Laugh at yourself and the cruel jokes life sometime plays.   Empathize with others when such cruelty invades them.  Entrench yourself in a fortress of spiritual beliefs.  Divide the day between intimacy with others and probing interaction with Nature and your inner self.  Use fresh therapeutic live herbs as food.  Eat them whole right up from the earth.   Use the RDI for vitamins and minerals as your guide for daily supplementation.  

Herbal Odyssey is not an exercise in selling the idea that herbs are either good or bad.  They can be both.  Humankind has used plants as food and medicine from the foggy dawn of life to our modern craggy times.  In today's global culture of excess, nutritional supplements are being abused.   They are touted by both experts and the naive as cure-alls.  Nutritional phytopharmaceutical therapy is big money, be careful.   Remember, for several million years our ancestors  thrived without pills.  We are here today--6 billion strong--because, like our ancestors, we eat  plants or we eat animals that eat plants.  Therefore our chemistry is made from plant chemistry.  It is time to rediscover we are a plant with wheels.  Plants are our best food and medicine.  They work hardest when consumed  with minimal preparation.   Plants achieve their highest nutritional and spiritual quality when nurtured on your own ground.  So climb aboard the Herbal Odyssey and navigate through the evidence of over a million years of discovery.  Herein lie the secrets to living harmoniously with your self, others and the natural world.