Herbs vs. drugs: It’s not a question of which is better, but rather when, why, and how each of these powerful therapies should be used for the greatest benefit. In The Backstory: Herbs Versus Drugs video, Dr. Rawls shares new content from his upcoming book, which sets the record straight about common misperceptions and expectations for using herbs as part of your holistic approach to health.
Hello everybody. Dr. Bill Rawls here. A lot of people think of herbs as being weak versions of drugs. And it’s pretty easy to see why that is. Generally, we don’t think about taking a medication unless we have a symptom. And for getting rid of symptoms, drugs generally work faster and are more potent than herbs are. And the reason for that is because drugs are specifically designed to block processes that are associated with a symptom or just block the sensation of the symptom completely.
Sometimes for an acute problem, like if you work out too hard at the gym and your muscles are really sore, taking a couple of ibuprofen can get rid of that discomfort within an hour or two, where there really aren’t any herbs out there that will do that. And so that blocking process, when you have an acute problem, can be really beneficial. But when you have a chronic symptom, taking a drug that’s just blocking the process or blocking the sensation really isn’t getting to the underlying root of the problem. So as soon as you stop the drug, the symptom comes roaring back.
When we look at how herbs work, it’s a completely, totally different mechanism. And it’s really taken years of research for me to understand this completely, but an herb, it’s not one chemical substance like ibuprofen. It’s a complex chemistry being produced by the plant that includes hundreds of different chemicals. So what the plant is doing this for is to protect itself from being stressed. So when you look at what a symptom really is, a symptom is stressed cells in the body. So when cells in the body are stressed or injured, so we’re all made of cells, everything in our body, our muscles, our bones or joints, everything are made out of cells.
So when cells are stressed or injured, they secrete chemicals that activate nerves and send a message to the brain that something is going wrong. So when we look at that mechanism, just blocking that impulse isn’t affecting what’s stressing the cells. So to really get rid of the problem, you have to get rid of the stress and that’s what herbs are doing. So again, plants are producing these substances to protect their cells. So all these phytochemicals include potent antioxidants, substances that neutralize inflammation, substances that neutralize toxic substances, and also things that kill microbes, because we all have microbes in our tissues and microbes are a constant threat to ourselves. So what the plant substances are doing, the phytochemistry of the herbs is actually enhancing the healing properties of the cell by protecting it.
So when you take away those stress factors, the cell can recover from being stressed. And that is what healing is all about. So when I look at herbs, what I think of them is doing is promoting the healing process as opposed to just treating the symptom like we’re doing with drugs. And healing takes time. So when you take an herb like turmeric, which is good for inflammation, it’s not going to work as acutely as ibuprofen, but it promotes that healing process.
The other thing that’s great about herbs is they don’t have the side effects of drugs, so we can actually take them every single day. And I’ve made a habit of taking herbs for well over a decade now. And I just don’t get the aches and pains that I used to and all the things that kind of come with life. It really is rare that I need something like an ibuprofen or any other kind of drug because I’m taking care of my cells.
I have good health habits, but I also take herbs every day, which are protecting my cells in an ongoing fashion. And that’s really important for our health. So when you’re thinking about symptoms, think about prevention. Think about promoting healing and thinking about protecting yourselves, giving your cells the armor they need so they can recover from stress, so that healing process is part of our everyday life. And it just makes us much more resilient to any kind of stress.