“Natural” Means What, Exactly?

Timothy Eagan brings a valuable addition to the rising discussion about vaccinations. The doubts raised about them come from a perplexing behavior in this land of boasted individualism: we often don’t think through and evaluate as best we can. We do what those around us do. In a herd mentality, the glue of which is narcissism, the first line of defense against a threatening world is people like ourselves. If people like us tell us something, with energy and certainty,  it must be true.  Those who sow doubt will lose the protection of the believers. The belief against vaccines is the flip side of the coin of belief in all manner of untested, unproven and unknown “natural” cures.  Those who entirely distrust big pharma and big government swallow claims and “dietary supplements” of equally big industries with equally big war chests and armies of lobbyists.

“If you want to know how we came to be a nation where everyone is a doctor, sound science is vilified and seemingly smart people distrust vaccinations, come to Utah — whose state flower should be St. John’s wort. Here, the nexus of quack pharma and industry-owned politicians has produced quite a windfall: nearly one in four dollars in the supplement market passes though this state.

We’re not talking drugs, or even, in many cases, food here. Drugs have to undergo rigorous testing and review by the federal government. Dietary supplements do not. Drugs have to prove to be effective. Dietary supplements do not.

These are the Frankenstein remedies — botanicals, herbs, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, dried stuff. They’re “natural.” They’re not cheap. And Americans pop them like Skittles, despite recent studies showing that nearly a third of all herbal supplements on the market may be outright frauds.”

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