Natural Alternatives to 10 of the Most Common Drugs
Do you ever feel like you’re being held hostage by drug companies? All too often, people are made to believe that they have no options when it comes to taking a drug.
If your doctor says you need a drug for a serious health problem, you might think it is the only thing you can do. You may feel frightened at the prospect of going against your doctor’s recommendations. You may be wary of seeking out natural alternatives.
Drug safety is becoming a major concern among many health professionals. Reports to the FDA of serious adverse drug events, including deaths, have more than doubled in recent years. This is more than enough reason to do a little of your own research and explore natural alternatives before you get that prescription filled.
Learn about the harmful side effects associated with the drug. Also, seek out some secondary advice. Research whether the risks outweigh the benefits. Consider what lifestyle changes you could make to improve your health. And investigate some natural alternatives, which may help you avoid taking prescription drugs.
Here are some drugs with clinically proven natural alternatives worth trying:
1. Ibuprofen vs. Curcumin
NSAIDs like Celebrex, aspirin and ibuprofen do reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. However, they can irritate your stomach. There is concern that over time, they can make osteoarthritis worse. They can block the repair process. These drugs have been found to actually retard the growth of cartilage.
On the other hand, curcumin is an all natural spice that has been found to curb inflammation. In one recent study, which explored natural alternatives, curcumin outperformed ibuprofen for knee pain after just six weeks.
What to Take: 1,000-1,500 mg a day.
2. Ambien vs. Melatonin
Ambien can be a great help for people who need it. But like other pills in its class, it creates dependence. You end up unable to sleep without it. Ambien has troubling side effects such as depression, amnesia and daytime drowsiness, headache and dizziness.
Melatonin is the most studied natural remedy for insomnia. It is a hormone. Synthesized in the brain’s pineal gland, it regulates the body’s sleep patterns. Melatonin production is influenced by day/night cycles. Light inhibits melatonin secretion and darkness stimulates secretion.
Melatonin is useful for older people with insomnia. It is also helpful for blind people, jet lag and those in withdrawal from prescription sleep medication. Unlike most prescription sleep aids, melatonin has no risk for dependence. It is not habit-forming.
What to Take: 3 mg before bedtime. Higher doses may cause wakefulness.
3. Restasis vs. Fish Oil
Restasis is the eyedrop form of the immune-suppressing and inflammation-suppressing drug cyclosporine. It’s used for chronic dry eyes. It works by suppressing the inflammation that disrupts tear secretion. Side effects include burning, redness and discharge.
Getting more omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can help dry eyes. Tears contain oil. But if you don’t have enough oil in your tears, they don’t lubricate well. They also evaporate too fast. Consuming more omega-3s makes your tears oilier. Fish oil also reduces inflammation that can interfere with tear production. Plus, fish oil reduces your risk of developing macular degeneration. This is a common cause of blindness in older people.
What to Take: 1,400 mg a day, or up to 6,000 mg a day if you have an autoimmune condition such as Sjorgren’s Syndrome.
4. Statins vs. Bergamot Orange
Statin drugs like Lipitor, Crestor and Lovastatin are called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. They are given this name because they reduce cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme needed for cholesterol production. Side effects include liver and muscle damage.
Bergamot contains compounds that help balance cholesterol. They block the action of the HMG-CoA reductase. Thus, preventing cholesterol production. Studies show bergamot can significantly lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. It can also decrease the amount of triglycerides when used consistently for 8-12 weeks.
What to Take: 600 mg twice a day or 1,200 mg once a day.
5. Neurontin vs. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Neurontin (gabapentin) is an anti-seizure drug. It’s now popular for all sorts of pain related to nerve damage, including diabetic neuropathy. Side effects include drowsiness, confusion, dizziness and trouble walking.
Alpha lipoic acid is a water and fat-soluble coenzyme. It is naturally produced in the body, involved in energy metabolism. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant. Alpha lipoic acid is used to improve insulin sensitivity. It is also used to treat peripheral neuropathy in people with diabetes. It increases blood flow to nerves, raises levels of antioxidants and makes nerves conduct signals faster. Alpha lipoic acid has even been shown to help lower cholesterol.
In one study, people were switched from 600 mg a day of alpha lipoic acid to Neurontin, they experienced many more side effects. They also noted less pain relief. In a group left untreated, 73% developed neuropathic symptoms two weeks after stopping alpha lipoic acid treatment. The authors of this study concluded alpha lipoic acid is “an effective, safe, and cost-effective treatment option for the majority of patients with diabetic polyneuropathy.”
What to Take: 250-500 mg a day.
6. Fosamax vs. Calcium and Vitamin D
Fosamax (alendronate) is an osteoporosis drug called a bisphosphonate. It works by inhibiting the work of osteoclasts. These are the bone cells that break down and remove old bone. It has a long list of possible side effects. Such side effects include stomach ulcers and osteoneocrosis, or death of the jaw bone, resulting in tooth loss, pain and infection.
Calcium and vitamin D are natural alternatives that can help prevent your bones from reaching the point where you need Fosamax. Long-term calcium supplementation decreases primary fracture rates by 30% to 35% for vertebral bone. It also decreases these rates by 25% for hip bone. It is estimated that 30 years of continuous calcium supplementation after menopause might result in a 10% improvement in bone mineral density. It is also predicted to result in 50% overall reduction in fracture rates, compared with women who do not take calcium supplements.
Vitamin D is just as vital. Its major functions are to maintain serum calcium within a normal range, enhance intestinal absorption of calcium and stimulate stem cells to become new bone-building osteoblasts.
What to Take: 1,000 mg of calcium, and 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D. Pair these natural alternatives with a multivitamin containing magnesium, boron, copper, zinc and other nutrients essential for bone growth. Get vitamin K from leafy greens or a supplement. It revs up bone-building cells.
7. Prozac vs. Fish Oil
Prozac is a popular antidepressant. It is a SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor). This means it helps to keep the “happy” neurotransmitter, serotonin, floating around in your brain longer.
Fish oil is a win-win for anyone with depression. It can work by itself for some people. It also can safely help antidepressants work better. It gets incorporated into cell membranes, making them more fluid and responsive to the neurotransmitters that latch on to the cells’ receptor sites. Population studies show people who eat more fish have a lower risk of depression and suicide.
What to Take: At least 3,000 mg a day of fish oil. Up to 9,000 mg of fish oil per day has been used in studies to treat depression. It can take several months to see an improvement in symptoms.
8. Donnatal vs. Peppermint Oil
Donnatal is prescribed for irritable bowel syndrome. It is an anti-spasmodic, so it relieves pain and cramping. Side effects include constipation and decreased sweating dizziness, drowsiness and dry mouth.
Peppermint oil is one of the major natural alternatives that has long been used to soothe cranky tummies. It decreases gastrointestinal smooth muscle spasms. Plus, peppermint oil can reduce abdominal pain, and distention and flatulence. It also decreases diarrhea in 70% to 80% of patients. People with irritable bowel syndrome often find relief by increasing their intake of soluble fiber as well, and using probiotics for bloating and abdominal pain.
What to Take: 0.2-0.4 mL (180-360 mg) of peppermint oil before meals. Also, get 20-30 grams a day of fiber from diet and supplements such as psyllium. In to these natural alternatives, take a good probiotic that contains at least 3 billion CFU.
9. Benadryl vs. Quercetin
Benadryl is a brand name for diphenhydramine. It is an antihistamine used to treat hay fever and other nasal allergies. It works by blocking receptor sites for histamine. This is the biochemical that causes the runny nose and scratchy eyes. These receptor sites are found on the cells in your nose, eyes and lungs. The drug’s main side effect is sleepiness. In fact, it is also used in over-the-counter sleep aids. Benadryl has also been linked to possibly increasing your risk for dementia.
A compound found in many plants, quercetin is considered a natural antihistamine. As a natural antihistamine, quercetin can inhibit release of histamine from certain immune cells. Evidence suggests quercetin inhibits antigen-stimulated histamine release from mast cells of patients with hay fever. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
What to Take: 300-600 mg three times daily. Along with two helpers, the natural alternatives bromelain and vitamin C.
10. Glucophage vs. Cinnamon
Glucophage (metformin) is a diabetes drug. It increases insulin sensitivity. It also improves the sensitivity of insulin receptor sites on cells. The drug makes it easier for them to “pick up” insulin. This lowers blood glucose levels. The most common side effects include indigestion, headache and diarrhea.
Research suggest cinnamon also improves insulin sensitivity. It makes receptor sites on cells “pick up” insulin better. One type of cinnamon in particular, Cassia cinnamon, can lower fasting blood glucose by 18% to 30%. Researchers have also found taking cinnamon extract can lead to significant increases in lean body mass. Also, cinnamon can reduce overall body fat. Additionally, cinnamon has antioxidant properties. These characteristics can fight aging. Plus, they can help your heart.
What to Take: 250 mg in the morning and evening of a water-soluble cinnamon extract. This extract is more absorbable and safer than consuming large amounts of powdered cinnamon. (Cinnamon contains volatile oils. When used frequently in high doses, whole cinnamon and fat-soluble cinnamon extracts may be toxic.)
The bottom line is this: Don’t let your doctor, or pharmaceutical ads, talk you into taking a drug you may not need before you have a chance to try to improve your through natural alternatives. It takes courage to turn away from the “simple” drug solutions that are so prevalent in our current way of thinking about medical problems.