‘I’m a bit sceptical about this sort of stuff,’ said my new patient, leaning back in his chair. His wife had persuaded him to come, and it was obvious that winning points in the marital game was going to be far more powerful than anything the herbs could do.
He didn’t show up for his next appointment
What did he mean by ‘this sort of stuff’? Most drugs are derived from plant material, and drug companies are constantly on the lookout for the next ‘cure’ to be found in the Amazon, or the Arctic tundra, or the Sahara desert. Herbs contain measurable amounts of pharmacologically active compounds, which can be extracted and tested in laboratory conditions.
So what is there to be sceptical about?
What he was really saying – apart from ‘I’m not going to admit that my wife might have a good idea’ – was that he was suspicious of ‘complementary’ medicine as a concept. Complementary medicine includes anything not dispensed by doctors, from aromatherapy to ear candles to chakra balancing, and of course, he was quite right to be sceptical about a lot of it. Plenty of things go on in orthodox medicine too, that are not strictly logical or would stand up to scientific scrutiny.
We should be sceptical; we should think it through before we accept any kind of treatment, especially one that promises too much, too soon. But equally, we should be open-minded, willing to accept help, and glad to be surprised when we find it in unexpected places.