Cr guide to natural cures

Homeopathy is based on the idea that whatever causes an ailment will also cure it—using products diluted to the point where the key ingredient is indetectable. In spite of numerous studies showing that homeopathy doesn’t work and you may as well just drink a glass of water, the practice persists. In 2017 consumers in the U.S. spent more than $1.3 billion on homeopathic remedies, according to the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ).

Yoga, on the other hand, which has its roots in ancient Indian spiritual practices, has been adopted by millions to help with crippling medical problems. And unlike homeopathy, there’s good evidence that it works. Last year, for example, a comprehensive review found that regular yoga practice helps to relieve back pain, one of Americans’ most common and hard-to-treat health complaints.

A third of Americans say they have used alternative treatments in the past year—and more than half of these people say they prefer such approaches over mainstream medicine, according to a new nationally representative Consumer Reports survey of 1,003 adults. But in the crowded landscape of alternative treatments, it’s almost impossible to determine which are worth trying.

It’s not surprising: Conventional treatments, such as prescription drugs and invasive surgeries, can’t always solve a wide array of common health problems. That’s frustrating not just to patients but also to physicians. In fact, according to CR’s recent survey, 29 percent of Americans who used alternative medicine or treatments in the past year did so because their doctors recommended it.

But even physicians who embrace alternative medicine urge caution. “In theory, I love of the idea of using a natural, less medicalized approach to illness, especially since there is so much medication overuse in our country,” says Michael Hochman, M.D., director of the Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. “But when it comes to those therapies where the evidence isn’t so rigorous, it can be damaging to your pocketbook and your health if you forgo more evidence-based treatment.”

Even when research suggests that alternative treatments work, it’s not always clear why—and could stem from the placebo effect. That’s when your expectation that a treatment will help actually triggers a healing reaction. And it’s powerful enough to get results. One trial of osteoarthritis patients, for example, compared a group taking supplements with one taking placebo pills. Most people in both groups reported significant reductions in pain.

Here, we’ll give you our take on an A-to-Z grab bag of alternative treatments. And below, we provide four tips on the safe and smart use of alternative medicine, as well as a primer on vitamins and dietary supplements. (Want to see our sources for each entry? See our sources for each entry.) 4 Tips for the Smart and Safe Use of Alternative Medicine

Do your research. Try to find out what’s known about the safety and efficacy of any treatment you’re considering. Look for reputable sources, such as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Cochrane Collaboration. Ask your primary care provider, too; more and more of them are embracing some forms of alternative medicine, and may be good resources.

Be choosy about practitioners. If you’re going to an alternative health practitioner, such as an acupuncturist, make sure he or she is credentialed, with a state license where appropriate. Check with your primary care doctor to see whether he or she can make a referral. And be skeptical of someone who tries to sell you additional products or sign you up for a long-term treatment plan (beyond four to eight sessions), or recommends that you forgo conventional treatments.

Think holistically. Sometimes alternative treatments can help you reduce your reliance on medication, avoid surgical intervention, or relieve the side effects of conventional treatments. Just consider how the alternative treatment could affect your health overall, for better or worse. The more serious the health problem, the more cautious you should be about turning to alternative medicine to treat it. Medications you’re already taking can also interact with certain dietary supplements, so talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before trying something new. Supplement Savvy

Federal regulations allow supplements to have general claims, such as “calcium builds strong bones,” but the FDA doesn’t vet the claims. And labels can’t claim that products diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. A label can’t say ginkgo biloba, for example, will prevent dementia—even if that’s why people are buying it. You also can’t be sure that supplements contain the listed ingredients or dosages, or that they aren’t contaminated. For example, last spring, nearly 200 people were sickened after consuming kratom supplements contaminated with salmonella.

Nearly half of Americans take multivitamins, but these pills, along with other vitamin and mineral supplements, may not be doing much for anyone’s health. “Multivitamins have an image of being able to compensate for deficiencies in the diet,” says JoAnn Manson, M.D., a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “But [they’ll] never be a substitute for a healthful and balanced diet.”

That doesn’t mean everyone should avoid supplements. Pregnant women need folate and prenatal vitamins, and breastfed infants need vitamin D and iron. Older adults and people with certain medical conditions may need vitamins, too. If you’re unsure whether you need one, talk with your doctor. And try not to exceed 100 percent of your recommended daily value of any nutrient. (Read more about vitamins and minerals.)