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Alternatives For Healing

Combining Medicine with Alternative Remedies

What You Need To Know

by Linda Mundorff, MPH, MSN, ND, RN, CNC, CTN

Ask most and they will tell you that they take at least one prescription medication. Ask an elderly person and you will find that many take anywhere from ten to fifteen different medications at one time! Look inside the medicine cabinet of any one of us and you will find a variety of over-the-counter medications. Most of us are aware that you never combine prescription medications unless prescribed by a doctor. But most of us are not aware of the reasons why consulting a doctor is so important.

All medications have the potential for side effects. Some of the side effects are minor and not life threatening such as dry mouth or slight gastric upset. But many side effects can be very life threatening, interfere with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, counteract the important benefits of many medications, and reduce the effects of enzymes. But what about the effects of herbal, homeopathic, and other natural remedies? Many of us combine prescription and over-the-counter medications with a variety of natural supplements. What most consumers of alternative remedies fail to realize is that combining those remedies with medications or even each other can have tragic consequences.

Did you know that most medications are synthesized from their natural counterpart? For example, before there was aspirin there was its natural plant counterpart found in willow bark. Both can help reduce a fever, take care of pain, and thin the blood and are virtually identical in many attributes.


Indicated to reduce the effects of the following ailments:

Headache, Reduce Fever, Aches & Pains

Potential side effects:

Easy Bruising, Black Stools, Allergic Reaction, Stomach Bleeding

Consult a doctor before use if you are:

Pregnant or Breast-Feeding, Diabetic, Have Liver Disease

Has been linked to:

Reyes Syndrome

Discontinue use if you experience:

Rash, Difficulty Breathing, Severe Dizziness or Itching

The problem arises when willow bark is taken with other products that have the same properties, such as warfarin, coumadin, and vitamin K or when taken by people suffering from conditions such as low-platelets, aspirin allergies, and peptic ulcers. For this reason, I tend to categorize all remedies, whether natural or synthetic, as drugs. A drug is defined as a substance taken to: diagnose, medicate, prevent, and treat. A drug can effect non-targeted organs in the body thus resulting in unwanted side-effects, can neutralize or counteract the effects of other drugs, and can worsen certain pre-existing health problems

Most of us think of vitamin and mineral supplementation as healthy and safe, but taken incorrectly it could have disastrous results: Vitamin B and the mineral Calcium are two very important supplements, but care must be exercised when using them, as described below.

Vitamin B3 (Niacon) & Calcium

Indicated to reduce the effects of the

following ailments:

Vitamin B3: Angina, Lowers Cholesterol and Triglycerides, Skin Hyperpigmentation, Asthma Calcium: Osteoporosis, Soft Teeth, Needed in Proper Ratio to Magnesium to Regulate Heart Beat

Potential side effects:

Vitamin B3: Liver Damage, Turns Urine A Deep Shade of Yellow, Gastric Ulcers Calcium: Heart Irregularities, Constipation, Kidney Stones

Consult a doctor before use if you have:

Vitamin B3: Gout, Peptic Ulcers, Asthma, Heart Problems, Diabetes Calcium: History of Kidney Stones, Heart Problems

Counteracts the effects of:

Vitamin B3: Beta-adrenergic Blockers, Diabetic Medications, Nitroglycerin, Bronchodilators Calcium: Calcium Channel Blockers, Tetracycline and Laxatives, Reduces the Absorption of Iron, Magnesium and Zinc

Discontinue use if you experience:

Vitamin B3: Rash, Difficulty Breathing, Severe Dizziness or Itching Calcium: Urinary Pain and Discomfort, Slow or Irregular Heart Beat, Confusion

Surprised? Don’t be. Most of us have been trained to believe that natural is always better, healthier, and safer. Most of the time I would agree, but as you can see by now, that is not always the case. Although remedies taken in their natural form are not as potent as their synthetic pharmacological counterpart, they are still capable of doing great harm in large doses or when combined with other medications or remedies. Therefore, all supplements, whether vitamins, minerals, herbal, or homeopathic need to be reported and discussed with your doctor. The doctor can review for: proper dosing, interactions with other remedies, reduced absorption potential, harmful effects, and the like.

As a naturopath it is my mission, among other things, to help others become self-advocates in their health. Being a self-advocate in your own health is best achieved by remembering these three words: think, ask, and research. I recommend that you, think about possible consequences, ask many questions, and research potential problems associated with your treatment. As health care consumers, it is your obligation and responsibility not only to advocate for yourself but for your family as well. Do not let someone else, a commercial, or a guarantee make a decision for you. There are no guarantees in life.

Armed with knowledge you can improve your chances of better-informed decisions about your health and the health of those you love. You’ll be glad you did!


Dr. Mundorff is the author of several books, Her latest book, Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living, is an innovative health guide, which helps the reader learn how to regain control of their health by discovering the practical effectiveness of combining alternative and modern medicine. You can reach her at bridges2hlth@ aol.com or visit her website at www. freewebs.com/bridges2hlth.

Disclaimer: Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Naturopathy is a complementary practice to health care and should be used in conjunction with a competent health care practitioner. Many herbal and homeopathic remedies can actually be contraindicated in many health conditions, with certain prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Please consult your physician before starting any alternative modalities.

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