The Path of Possibility - "The medications are managing it"

July 26, 2023

The Path of Possibility - "The medications are managing it"

“The medication manages it so well,” he thought.

I had a conversation with a family member a while back about the medication they’ve been taking for several years. As an herbalist, it’s my job to research drugs for side-effects and contraindications with plants. In doing research, I came across a warning about this medication. It has a high (and well-known) risk of causing kidney failure and this becomes problematic the longer someone’s on it. I texted them the research and suggested they talk with their doctor about weaning off and of course, I offered to help.

Here's another story, I woman came to our office the other day who’s on 8 medications for hypertension. Yes, you read that correctly, 8! I don’t even know how that happens, but I imagine that her physicians are honestly trying to keep her alive.

I support your health choices, whatever they may be. I believe there are many roads to well-being. For some that path includes taking life-saving medications forever. For others that includes taking medications for a short amount of time to get an issue under control. For others that includes refusing medications. Do what feels most aligned with you.

And if you’re on medications that you’d like to wean yourself off of or one day find yourself in need of medication, keep this in the back of your mind: there is a window of time where medications may work without noticeable side-effects. Noticeable being the operative word. In the same way that you don’t feel your body creating new cells, you won’t feel damaged cells dying. It’s a progression toward increased tissue damage and that window of time really depends on your body’s vitality.

Two of the most common long-term warnings I see when researching medications are hepatotoxicity and renal failure. Your liver and kidneys do the heavy lifting of detoxifying and cleansing. When we are taking substances that are not biologically compatible with our bodies, whether its artificial dyes from food, or medications the body has to figure out what to do with what’s foreign and that’s a big job.

Here's what you can do:

  1. Always nourish your liver and kidneys. This is balancing what you ingest through diet with taking herbs that improve the functioning of these organs. Milk Thistle is an excellent liver herb (and more) that’s generally safe for most and will not be contraindicated with drugs, but still do your research. Stinging Nettle Leaf, which we talked about yesterday, also nourishes the kidneys. And make sure you’re drinking enough water. Your body can’t cleanse if your cells are dehydrated.
  1. If you’re currently on medications that you’d like to get off of, I have some harsh news for you. While you may think it’s your doctor’s job to support you in weaning off and I agree, I’ve spoken with enough physicians to explain the nuance: they will be hesitant to support you if you don’t have a plan. Doctors are much more open and likely to support you weaning off medications if you show up with a plan, or willing to implement one and at each visit, they can tell you’re following the plan because you’re making progress. This progress may show up in your blood work (an example of one measurement). Hate it or hate it, this is the system. They’re not going to get sued or put their license on the line for you (because it’s not just you it’s hundreds of patients) by taking you off medications that their system says you need and therefore they must document that they prescribed.
  1. If you need start medications to get a condition under control, you still need to be personally proactive about your care. It’s a slippery slope to become dependent on them. The medication may support you, but if you think the drug does the job for you, then you’ll likely end up needing additional prescriptions. Prescription drug use increases with age and according to CivicScience “the picture of maintenance prescription drug use in the U.S. has shifted dramatically. The number of U.S. adults who report taking at least one prescription medication per day is now 70%, a 14 percentage-point increase from 2019 data. Additionally, the percentage of people taking four or more prescription medications daily in the US has increased by six percentage points, from 18% to 24%.”
  1. Lastly, explore herbal medicine! We have so much support in nature, it’s mind-blowing. There are circumstances in which pharmaceuticals are the best course of action and there are lanes where herbal medicine shines. There’s lots of room to do both and there is no state of health that herbal medicine cannot support and improve in some way because plants work on our whole being, not just our bodies.

So what happened with that family member? He texted his old doctor and the physician agreed that they should probably get him off of that medication. Now he’s seeing a new doctor who’s more holistically minded and with a plan in place the doctor said, ‘it’d be better for you to have a flare up than to continue taking this medication.”

As always, remember you have options and that your path to wellbeing can be customized to suit your needs, goals, and greatest alignment.

Today’s plant ally on our Path of Possibility is Wild Lettuce! Wild Lettuce is fitting for our conversation on medications because pain medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription are some of the drugs taken the most. The most used over-the-counter drugs are Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen and hepatotoxicity is a significant adverse reaction consideration for acetaminophen. Here’s a quick video about the risks of chronic use of NSAIDS.

Back to Wild Lettuce. While it’s not fair to do a side-by-side comparison of herbal pain relievers to drug analgesics, Wild Lettuce’s ability to dial down acute pain, tension, spasm, and even anxiety (which worsens pain) is pretty remarkable. And I love it when the medicine we need grows prolifically - you likely have Wild Lettuce growing nearby! Wild Lettuce is another example of the abundant support in nature that’s within our reach. Relief is a gift when you live with chronic pain and when herbs. Here's a longer video on Wild Lettuce that includes some nuances and considerations should you decide to work with it.

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