Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Alternative medicine and the family

Published:Saturday | March 11, 2017 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston

With the high cost of sourcing medications when a member of the family falls ill, some persons are turning to non-traditional measures in seeking healing, including 'granny's good old bush remedy'.

It is no secret that our fore parents had a secret 'potion' for every illness under the sun. They knew just the right bush tea to take care of ailments such as measles, colds, and even more serious sickness. But with the risk associated with using bushes in their natural state, many are now looking to alternative medicine as their way out.

But there are still those who will not divert from the 'regular' doctor prescriptions to embrace a new channel in getting better.

Whither alternative or not? Family and Religion reached out to Donnette Wynter, founder of Agape Lifestyle Wellness & Lifestyle, and who also holds a master of science degree in complementary alternative medicine from the University of Technology.

'Alternative medicine' as adopted by Cochrane - is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It is a broad domain of healing resources that encompasses all health systems, modalities, and practices, and their accompanying theories and beliefs other than those intrinsic to the politically dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period.

Regarding whether it should be something families dealing with various types of illnesses embrace, Wynter gave a firm nod on this one.

"A lot has been said about how expensive herbal and alternative are compared to just using 'what God has provided': the bushes. But are they unknowingly exposing themselves to more hurt?" she quizzed.

According to Wynter, in Jamaica, CAM is not established in the public-health system, so that makes it expensive.

"This is an unfortunate situation because the Jamaican representative signed the Beijing Declaration, Adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) Congress on Traditional Medicine, Beijing, China, on November 8, 2008," she said, adding that if the policy is implemented, the picture would be very different today. There would have been government-propelled research, and education in CAM modalities, and certification of legitimate CAM practitioners in the public health care system, with insurance coverage for care.

"Many lifestyle conditions are very expensive and bothersome to treat once they become established. So whatever is spent in therapy as a preventative tool, is far less than what would be spent in the treatment," she shared.




Addressing the practice of using herbs in their natural state, Wynter said that like chemical preparations of pharmaceuticals, they are potentially toxic if not used responsibly.

"We know traditionally, garlic is used widely, but if one's clotting time is deranged, then it could predispose the user to bleeding. The way to counter this is to locate a trained and certified alternative practitioner or an integrative medical practitioner and be guided by research," Wynter said.

Most, if not all, medications are associated with some form of side effects and Wynter admits that alternative is no different.

"Therapeutic or side effects, will depend on the client's biochemical processes and their unique interaction with a particular thing. Much of the herbs that have been made villains have not been scientifically proven, and so in many instances, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. If we are true scientists who make decisions based on research, then we owe it to the Jamaican public to engage in research that will inform practice," she said.

Quizzed on when a family should start thinking alternative medicine, Wynter said culturally, Jamaicans at all levels of the society use alternative therapies from childhood.

"Our mothers and grandmothers used them. They are so commonplace that we don't even recognise it. One classic example is the use of the mineral spring baths in our beautiful island. Generally, these therapies are used for their prophylactic and therapeutic effects," she said.




Wynter said that CAM mainly focuses more on preventative care rather than curative, and so individuals who are conscious of their risk factors should take responsibility and seek to prevent the occurrences rather than using CAM as a last resort, which is usually the case.

She also debunked some health myths which have family members hooked on medication for life.

"I've heard the advertisements on the radio and have observed health care professionals telling individuals that once hypertensive, always hypertensive. This is considered to be a lifestyle condition. Lifestyle conditions are preventable," she shared.

Pointing out that Jamaica possesses a biodiversity that very few countries in the world could even walk close to, she said that the herbs that are grown in our soil are more bioactive than most others on the planet.

"We can heal if we invest in the right places. If CAM research fuelled by CAM education funded by governmental and NGOs were facilitated with pure motives of better public health, then the rest will take care of itself. The money we so badly need would come. I think the rest of the world knows this except Jamaicans."