Myth Busters

All this natural health stuff is just a modern fad

Well, this one couldn’t be further from the truth! All indigenous cultures around the world have systems of herbal and natural healing as well as physical therapies with intricate knowledge that is handed down through generations. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture are at least 2,500 years old. Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of the Indian subcontinent, can be traced back at least 4,000 years. Naturopathy, the main Western form of traditional medicine, has its historic roots in Europe but was introduced into both the Western Pacific and North America around 1900. Most naturopaths today practice a blend of European and North American naturopathy while incorporating elements of the Asian and local traditions as well.

In comparison: For most of modern medicine’s history, bloodletting and poisoning patients with mercury were the main answers doctors had to almost all ailments. Only in 1942 did Howard Florey and Ernst Chain develop the manufacturing process for penicillin, enabling the first antibiotics to be sold as drugs. Sadly still, medical treatment gone wrong is one of the most common causes of death.

The World Health Organisation declares in its strategy paper:

“Traditional and complementary/alternative medicine has demonstrated efficacy in areas such as mental health, disease prevention, treatment of non-communicable diseases, and improvement of the quality of life for persons living with chronic diseases as well as for the ageing population. Although further research, clinical trials, and evaluations are needed, traditional and complementary/alternative medicine has shown great potential to meet a broad spectrum of health care needs.”

Two out of three Australians are in fact using some form of complementary medicine.

Osteopaths only treat bones and backs

It’s understandable that people imagine back injuries when they think of osteopathy – because it’s true that osteopaths have great success with lower back pain. Meanwhile the association with bones comes from the past: both the name of the practice (‘osteo’ means bones) and an original emphasis on ‘aligning’ bones.

But osteopaths are trained to treat all areas of the body. You can visit an osteopath for treatment of pain in your neck and knees, headaches and all types of sports injuries as well as other issues such as women’s health, constipation, low energy and healing after accidents.

Pharmaceutical drugs are more effective than lifestyle changes or supplements

We’ve been led to believe that modern medicine is the answer and that popping pills, from antibiotics to statins, will cure our problems. Being on some kind of medication is almost normal these days. In fact, 70% of US Americans are taking pharmaceutical drugs – and yet the US has the worst health outcomes of nearly all developed countries.

Generally, we tend to overestimate the effect of pharmaceutical pills. A senior executive of the pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline shocked the industry when he pointed out that the ‘vast majority of drugs, more than 90 per cent, only work in 30 to 50 per cent of people’ (http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2003/s1006644.htm). Also, there is no drug that doesn’t also have unwanted side effects. For instance, overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed during the past decade. Nearly 15,000 people died in 2008 of overdoses involving prescription painkillers in the US alone, a three-fold increase compared to 1999 according to data from the US Center for Disease Control. (https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/painkilleroverdoses/index.html)

At the same time, most people massively underestimate their ability to help themselves. Lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercise reduce the risk of disease more than any single drug ever could! Most cancer organisations worldwide estimate that 30-50% of cancers could be avoided with diet and lifestyle changes alone.

Therefore, many people prefer natural treatments that may be as effective or even more effective than pharmaceutical drugs and have fewer side effects. And really, that is what humans have done for thousands of years.

There’s ‘no evidence’ for herbal medicine

It is true that there’s often not the same kind or amount of scientific evidence for herbal medicine as for pharmaceuticals. The main reason for this is that generally, herbal medicines cannot be patented and therefore do not create the same profits as pharmaceutical drugs. Clinical trials are expensive and without that profit looming, a lot less trials are run. Also, the usual way of building scientific evidence is by trials using the same isolated substance in the same dosage and on (ideally) a large group of people. Herbal medicine by its very nature is usually a combination of substances which may vary in the plant depending on growing conditions etc. This makes herbal medicines a little difficult for scientists because the results aren’t as ‘clean’ as when every component is totally under artificial control.

Yet we also have good research that it is exactly the natural combination of these ingredients, which creates synergy or ‘magic’. One example is St John’s Wort which in many trials has shown to be just as effective in mild to moderate depression as a range of pharmaceutical anti-depressants. In search for a patentable drug, pharmaceutical companies have tested a wide range of individual constituents from St John’s Wort for their activity. None of them showed meaningful antidepressant effects on their own. Yet, put them together as found in nature – magic! What’s even more, St John’s Wort achieves those results without the typical side effects of anti-depressants.

Despite these difficulties and sometimes limitations, there are now many scientific reviews of herbal medicine, more every day, demonstrating ‘high and moderate quality evidence [that] supports a possible role for herbal medicines in the management of commonly occurring conditions such as osteoarthritis, depression, coronary heart disease, diabetes and a number of common infectious diseases’ (McClure et al. (2014) Scoping the Evidence for the Effectiveness of Herbal Medicines. EHTPA.)

Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years and, properly prescribed by an experienced naturopath, works in different ways to pharmaceutical drugs so they provide options on each person’s path to health. We prescribe herbal medicines that work in the best combination with each other to provide the best results for you.

Let’s maybe summarise with a quote from the World Health Organisation: “Traditional use of herbal medicines refers to the long historical use of these medicines. Their use is well established and widely acknowledged to be safe and effective.”

Osteopaths can cure conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes and asthma

At tonika health, we’re aware that some sources taint the reputation of osteopathy with outlandish claims, saying it can cure conditions like heart disease or diabetes. This misunderstanding might have come about because osteopaths give advice on these conditions or provide symptomatic relief for the muscles and joints affected by such issues.

Osteopathy is a complementary treatment to the pills and surgery that are part of traditional medical treatment. We’ll work together with your current medical or naturopathic practitioner, your physio or your massage therapist towards your good health with your best interests at heart. There may not be a cure, but we can help.

Massage feels nice but ‘doesn’t really do anything’

Many people treat themselves to a massage while on holiday or for a special occasion, just wanting to chill out and feel a little better. The therapeutic massage that tonika health specialises in is different. It aims at results that contribute to your general good health.

Scientific research on massage therapy has been done on many different conditions and shows that massage can be useful for the immediate relief of acute or chronic neck and lower back pain, osteoarthritis and even depression. It can assist in relieving symptoms of cancer, support athletic performance, treat conditions associated with ageing, and help women during pregnancy, as well as patients before and after operations. The evidence is clear: massage does a lot more than make you feel good.  

Osteopathy is ‘just massage’

Osteopathy uses massage techniques, but it involves more than massage. Osteopaths learn many skills during their training and individual osteopaths will use techniques such as joint mobilisation and adjustments. All these are used in combination with the osteopath’s experience in treating the problem you’ve come to see us about.

Osteopathy involves a five-year Master’s degree and there’s not much that osteopaths don’t know about the human anatomy and how the body moves or is supposed to move. Osteopathy comprises knowledge, experience, skills and techniques: it’s not just one thing. In fact, we believe that in many cases osteopathy and massage are an ideal combination and our practitioners work well together.

Supplements are ‘a waste of time and money’

We live in a lucky country. Australia has some of the highest and most vigilantly monitored standards for supplements in the world. Here, herbal and nutritional supplements are regulated as medicines, not dietary supplements. Adverse events are recorded and monitored by the Therapeutic Goods Administration just like for prescription medicines. Manufacturing facilities are required to meet the same standards as those that make pharmaceutical drugs. 

So, there’s evidence of how supplements work as effective medicine and their quality is assured. There have been studies revealing that some supplements from some manufacturers or countries don’t contain what is claimed on the label or, worse, harmful substances like heavy metals. That’s why we generally recommend not buying online nor supplements from the US, India or China.  

It’s also true that supplements are a big business and can be expensive, but that’s where we come in. We’ll assess your actual needs and provide you with quality recommendations as well as sharing evidence and information on what we recommend.

Supplements can be a quick fix

Some people think that they can take supplements and, after a short time, their problems will go away – like taking a painkiller for a headache. We’re never about the quick fix – which is usually not a fix at all – at tonika health. We chat with you without charge during our 15-minute complimentary appointment about what commitment you’ll need to address your issues and how long a treatment plan will last, even if it is just a trial to begin with.

You’re just going to book me in for endless treatments that aren’t going anywhere

We’re proud at tonika health of the relationships we build up with our clients. They’re based on honesty, directness and what we feel will get you the best results.

If you’re hoping to be put right after one session and we don’t think that’s possible, we’ll tell you. But it’s not our aim for you to visit us for no reason or to sign you up for some excessive treatment plan. If we can help with your problem in one or a few sessions, we’re happy to send you on your way in good health and be on call whenever you need us.

In the meantime, osteopathy, massage, naturopathy, nutrition and supplements are part of an approach that looks at improving your lifestyle and the whole of your health. While we may be able to provide quick relief for some problems, it’s a good idea to look for underlying issues to make sure the trouble won’t come back. We’ll discuss everything with you in detail and work out a plan so that you know how you’re travelling every step of the way.