Ziel: Students should consider holistic medicine

Renee Ziel

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Some people opt for over-the-counter medications for the slightest aches or other minor health issues that could be solved by other means. These remedies are fast-acting and modern, so one can see their appeal, especially for stressed and busy students. But are they really the best?

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Isabel Van Dyke, a third-year student at Colorado State University and yoga instructor with training in herbalism, says natural remedies improved her life drastically, and they might be beneficial for other people. Van Dyke is heavily involved in the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient healing practice with roots in India focused on the balance of the mind, body and spirit through foods and herbs, in addition to the right exercises.

“I think that everybody’s very, very different,” Van Dyke said. “If you are someone that (believes) conventional medication, over-the-counter, generic stuff works for you, there’s no reason that you … should completely disregard all of that. But I think that going in a natural direction can relieve people of some of the side effects that over-the-counter medications can cause.”

It’s true that on every pill bottle and its box is a comprehensive list of all the medication’s potential side effects. These often include nausea, dizziness, fatigue and internal bleeding. There are also certain medications that should not be mixed, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, and medications that shouldn’t be taken with alcohol in the system, such as cold and flu medicines.

However, unlike over-the-counter medicines, some medications do not have an alternative, such as some vaccines.

When asked how such an approach to life helped her, Van Dyke said her past with anxiety and severe digestive issues caused by substance abuse of OTC medicines led her to the holistic path.

“I decided to test out some more natural methods that I thought would be easier on my digestive system, and I found that upon switching … to things like ashwagandha and copaiba, those things really worked for my system and (were) relieving my anxiety based on the way that they worked with my body,” Van Dyke said.

Everybody is different, and … you should never feel as though you have to take natural medicine or take conventional medicine.” -Isabel Van Dyke, yoga instructor

There are many notable benefits and studies regarding the holistic path. A simple Google search will lead you to many. However, the research tends to indicate unclear results for herbal medicines. Some herbal alternatives are cheaper and/or have less side effects than traditional methods, but many experts recommend weighing the pros and cons and talking to your doctor before making a decision. 

It’s also important to note that natural remedies are not restricted to herbs, diets or yoga. Sometimes bad health is simply an issue of dehydration or a nutrient deficiency.

The fact of the matter is, OTC medications should not necessarily be what someone is reaching for automatically in hopes of improving their health. In some cases, this can even apply to prescription medications. Valerian root is a common and potent way to help with severe sleep issues, among other herbs.

Although there are many benefits, other students may not be aware of natural remedies for similar problems or even aches and pains. Some students may be aware and simply don’t want or don’t have the means to try. Others declare a clear interest.

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“I think alternative medicine is extremely interesting,” said third-year student Julia Scott. “Practicing breathing and different postures through things like yoga has shown to have a lot of different benefits. I practiced yoga for a long time to help with a pinched nerve in my back, and that was probably the best it has felt in a long time.”

Other students seem more skeptical about the nature of natural alternatives entirely.

“From what I know, yoga is healthy and can be very good for the body,” said Nicholas Veintimilla, a junior psychology major. “(But) I think we have doctors and physical therapists for a reason, and we should take the advice of licensed professionals.”

This sentiment reflects what Van Dyke wished to convey to others above all, as she warned that certain herbs can be very potent, and one should always go to a primary doctor, especially if taking other medications at the time.

“Everybody is different, and … you should never feel as though you have to take natural medicine or take conventional medicine,” Van Dyke said. “No matter what you do, you should always be consulting with a licensed herbalist or your primary doctor, regardless of which way you go.”

Van Dyke said she was relieved physically after discovering the benefits of taking care of herself naturally and that her anxiety has left her system, only coming back in severe instances. She said she doesn’t feel like she has to take conventional medications.

“Just listen to your body because that’s the most important thing out of all of it,” Van Dyke said.

Renee Ziel can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @reneezwrites.