It is a known thing that drugs are becoming a part of daily life for a majority of the population. Unfortunately, many drugs are far too costly, while others have drastic side-effects, and some even cause other diseases. For example, too much Acetaminophen can cause liver damage, Statins can cause hormone issues, elevated blood sugar, and liver damage, anti-depressants can cause sexual dysfunction and personality changes.
Drugs like Harvoni, which is used to treat Hepatitis C, costs nearly $95,000; Ocrevus, which treats Multiple Sclerosis, costs about $65,000; Zolgensma, which treats Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in children less than 2 years old, costs more than $2.1 Million.
Given these facts, it comes as no surprise that people are not only looking for more affordable solutions but natural, safer options too. The problem with the internet is the spread of false information about “natural cures”. Here at DoctorNishal.com, the goal is to share “Evidence-based” natural remedies that have been tested in clinical research. So in this article, I will be talking about a few commonly prescribed drugs and their clinically-proven natural alternatives. Keep in mind that while these alternatives appear to be safer, they must still be used with the proper supervision of a healthcare provider that is trained to use them clinically.
Contrary to popular belief, there are literally thousands of clinical trials conducted on natural medicines including herbs, herbal formulations, nutrients, and supplements. In fact, even foods have been tested in clinical research for their disease-fighting capabilities.
Amla vs Simvastatin
Simvastatin is a drug used for treating high cholesterol levels. It is part of a group of drugs known as statins. The downside to these drugs is that they can cause high blood sugar, headaches, myalgia, dizziness, and gastric trouble as well as liver toxicity, rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown), kidney failure, severe anemia, and more.
Amla is a fruit that is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating conditions such as GERD, diabetes, heart disease, Vitamin C deficiencies, anemia, fatigue, and more. In a clinical trial, Amla was compared to Simvastatin and found to be just as effective in reducing cholesterol levels and also had an added benefit of reducing blood pressure (see study). In other clinical trials, Amla has proven to significantly reduce blood sugar levels as well (see study). It is important to note that Amla is a rich source of Vitamin C in addition to other antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Amla has been proven to treat a wide range of conditions without any side-effects at all. In my clinical experience, I have noticed that the only side-effects were mild issues such as significant increases in appetite and if taken in high doses, loose stools. Other than that, not only is there no mention of side-effects in 5000+ years of its documented medicinal use, there is also no mention of side-effects in clinical research.
Diabetes Type II
Berberine vs Metformin
Metformin is a common drug that is prescribed to treat Diabetes Type 2 and other conditions related to insulin resistance such as PCOS, etc. It is, without a doubt, a very effective medicine and has proven to be highly useful in Diabetes. However, it does have side-effects, some of which can be pretty severe.
Metformin side-effects include lactic acidosis, gastric discomfort (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gas), reduced vitamin B12 levels, muscle pain, painful or difficult urination, anxiety, dizziness, depression, headaches, irregularities with heart rhythms, and nightmares as well as seizures, tightness in the chest, loss of strength, unusual sleepiness, weakness and more.
Berberine is an alkaloid that is extracted from plants such as Barberry, Goldenseal, Oregon Grape, etc. It is a natural compound that is highly useful in multiple disorders. For centuries, the plant sources of Berberine have been used for treating various disorders such as infections, diabetes, heart disease, wounds, parasites, etc. In a comparative clinical trial, Berberine was found to have the same effect as Metformin in patients with Type 2 Diabetes resulting in reduced HbA1c, fasting blood sugar, and post-prandial blood sugar levels (see study). In fact, Berberine appears to work on the same physiological processes associated with blood sugar reduction as Metformin. Berberine is also clinically proven to reduce total cholesterol levels, LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure (see study). It has also shown promise for improving the quality of life, dyspnea fatigue, exercise capacity and left ventricular ejection fraction in patients with cardiomyopathy (see study).
Berberine appears to have very mild side-effects in some patients. These side-effects include gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or constipation. Most of these were resolved by either dividing or reducing doses. It does appear to interact with macrolide antibiotics such as azithromycin. Therefore, one should avoid berberine during courses of antibiotics. As I have said before, even natural medicines should be used under proper medical supervision.
St. Johns Wort vs Anti-Depressants
Anti-Depressants such as Sertraline and Paroxetine are used for treating depression, anxiety, PMS, PMDD, OCD, and more. These drugs are known as “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors”. They prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain, resulting in more serotonin remaining in circulation. This helps to control neurochemistry in a way that is beneficial to patients with the above-mentioned conditions. Unfortunately, the list of side-effects of these drugs is so long that I could write another entire article just on that topic.
Side-effects include erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory issues, decreased libido, delayed or inability to ejaculate, genital disorders in both men and women, lack of emotion, personality changes, vaginal discharge, menstrual changes, painful intercourse, vaginal itching, acid reflux, gastric discomfort, gas and belching, unusual body movements and face movements, shivering, poor coordination, seizures, confusion, agitation, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and more.
St. Johns Wort is a medicinal herb with multiple medicinal uses. It has specifically gotten attention for its potent anti-depressant effects. In fact, in multiple clinical trials, St. John’s Wort was found to significantly reduce the symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression with a potency similar to that of standard anti-depressants (see studies).
Generally, St. John’s Wort is safe to use, however, it does occasionally present with certain side-effects such as vomiting, anxiety, panic attacks, agitation, and amnesia. These side-effects tend to occur much less in patients using St. John’s Wort in comparison to those taking anti-depressants like Prozac. While these side-effects appear to be significantly less severe than pharmaceutical anti-depressants, it is still extremely important for one to use St. John’s Wort under proper medical supervision. The more troubling concern with St. John’s Wort is the fact that it tends to interact with pharmaceutical drugs. It also has the ability to reduce the effects of certain medications. Use with caution.
Triphala vs Chlorhexidine
Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic used for treating Gingivitis, but also for pre-surgical skin disinfection as well as to sterilize surgical instruments. In this article, I will be addressing Chlorhexidine Gluconate and its use as a mouthwash.
Dentists often prescribe this mouth wash to clear out the bacterial infections that cause Gingivitis – a condition characterized by inflammation, swelling, and bleeding of the gums. Chlorhexidine is considered to be the most effective antiseptic mouthwash on the market, however, it is not without certain awful side-effects such as staining of the teeth, altered taste perception, increased tartar formation, and allergic reactions.
Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal formula that has recently gained a lot of popularity due to its anti-diabetic, anti-cholesterol, anti-obesity, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer effects. There have been numerous clinical trials conducted on this formula proving its efficacy in providing the above-mentioned effects.
In the case of Gingivitis, the use of Triphala as a mouthwash has been found to be highly effective in reducing plaque formation, improving gingival health, and reducing microbial levels with a potency comparable to Chlorohexidine (see study). Triphala has also been clinically-tested for reversing pre-cancerous oral lesions (see study) and periodontal disease in general (see study). No side-effects were seen in clinical studies, however, I have had a few patients/clients report that Triphala causes temporary dryness of the mouth. With that in mind, I always recommend people with Sjogren’s Syndrome or Dry Mouth to avoid it.
Mucuna Pruriens vs L-Dopa
L-Dopa or Levodopa is a precursor to the neurotransmitter known as Dopamine. L-Dopa is a naturally occurring amino acid that is produced in the body, however, in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, there tends to be considerably less production of its end-product, Dopamine. Pharmaceutical L-Dopa is given to patients with Parkinson’s disease, which results in reduced motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, etc. Oral L-Dopa is usually metabolized at a very rapid rate which prevents it from reaching the brain before converting to Dopamine (Dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain-barrier, but L-Dopa can). In order to prevent this conversion, it is often given together with another medicine called Carbidopa.
Over the course of time, L-Dopa becomes less and less effective as the body adjusts to it via DNA methylation. L-Dopa is also associated with various side-effects such as abnormal thinking, anxiety, agitation, teeth grinding, confusion, hallucinations, numbness, nausea, vomiting, uncontrolled body movements, clumsiness, increased salivation, weakness, difficult urination, blurred vision, hot flashes, irregular heartbeats, bloody stools, high blood pressure, convulsions, swelling of the face, feet or legs, vomiting of blood, and in rare cases, prolonged and painful erections.
Mucuna Pruriens is an Ayurvedic herb with multiple neurological and psychiatric uses. The beans contain naturally occurring L-Dopa, while the pods contain Serotonin, DMT, NADH, and CoQ10. In the case of Parkinson’s, the beans are used. In multiple clinical trials, Mucuna Pruriens was found to be highly effective for treating Parkinson’s disease (see study). Researchers have also suggested that Mucuna Pruriens appears to have more advantages over standard pharmaceutical L-Dopa.
As far as side-effects go, Mucuna Pruriens can have adverse effects if misused or overdosed. I have noticed in my practice that most people use this herb without any supervision of a professional who knows how to use it medicinally. Most people use the information they find on the internet, resulting in adverse reactions. When used correctly, most of the side-effects of Mucuna Pruriens tend to be mild such as gastric discomfort (bloating, nausea, etc), insomnia, and abnormal body movements. In clinical trials, Mucuna Pruriens appears to be fairly safe when properly used. While it is rarely reported, in theory, due to the fact that this herb contains L-Dopa, it might produce similar side-effects. However, I have come across no clinical evidence of this in my research or practice.
To book an Ayurvedic consultation with me, click here
(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
by Dr. Nishal R.
Copyright © 2020