Alternative medicine can sound like such a bad phrase to some. When we look back on human history, we can easily see the problem with the practice of it. A long time ago, administering liquid Mercury was said to grant immortality. Dousing ailments on paper and soaking them in streams and creeks was said to cure fevers. Don’t get me started on the treatments for hysteria in women. We float memes around about the ridiculousness of what we now know to be pseudo-scientific medicine, and we laugh about how strange and, frankly, stupid it all seemed.
How wonderful it is to live in a scientific era where we only ever trust our health and mental well-being to scientists and medical professionals…
Now, I’ve often been told that tone doesn’t always translate over the internet, so to be clear, that was sarcasm. Don’t get me wrong; it is much better to be alive today in the time of vaccines and antibiotics and surgeries that mean we don’t have to die of “stomach attacks” when you appendix decides it doesn’t want to live anymore. I shudder to imagine how my anxiety and OCD would have been treated in the pre-twentieth century. Yet, with all of these advances in not only the medicine and treatments available to us but also in how doctors care for their patients, it’s almost surprising how popular homeopathic and alternative medicines are. In fact, it almost seems like they are becoming increasingly touted as superior.
I find myself in a sort of crossroads here. I am a certified Reiki practitioner. My great grandfather was a curandero, faith healer, who treated ailments ranging from mild fevers to deadly snakebites and terminal diseases. Alternative healing is not only a part of who I am today, it is etched into the bark of my family tree. So, understand that what I’m about to say does not at all mean that I do not see or appreciate the value of home remedies and cures.
Witches, for the most part, are naturally inclined to be helpers. If they see something wrong, their first instinct is to fix it. When a person comes to us with a problem, either physical or otherwise, we want to help. For me, that might mean offering to give them a Reiki session or mix up some herbs in a tea or paste. If they are amenable, I will even create a spell specifically for them. But there is one thing I always make abundantly clear to them before I do any of this: I am not a doctor.
Natural remedies and solutions are wonderful. To a point. If you can safely administer them and they help to relieve some measure of your ailment, that’s great! For example, last week when I was covered in jellyfish stings, I didn’t go straight for the Benadryl (which was good because we didn’t pack any). We mixed up a paste using the salt water from the beach and items we had in the kitchen. It took away the pain and in less than an hour, it didn’t bother me at all. But not everything is so easily treated. When my anxiety and OCD began to interfere with my day-to-day, I was so against the idea of going to a doctor and being prescribed medicine that I wound up researching all sorts of roots and vitamins I could take instead. I found a couple that did relieve the worst of it, but the reality was, it was to the point that I needed professional help. Ultimately, that is what helped me the most.
There are a lot of healers out there who will claim that they can do what modern medicine cannot. I have encountered so many people who have told me, point blank, that if I trust them with my mental health, I won’t have to take another pill again. This seemed more than a little far-fetched to me even though there are many anecdotes from people who claim such-and-such natural healing has cured me of all illness! If that’s true, than great! But I was still not convinced. As I began my Reiki training, my teacher spoke of the detox phase and how we were meant to eliminate unnatural foods from our diets. Of course the collective question was about caffeine, but I specifically asked him about anti-anxiety medication. Without realizing it, his response helped to shape my current stance on alternative and spiritual medicine. I won’t repeat it verbatim, but it boils down to this:
We must recognize that every person is unique. We must never claim to be able to cure disease or injuries. Instead of working against modern medicine, we should strive to work with it in order to achieve the best possible results and experience. Understanding what a person needs and accepting what must be done to help is vital.
In other words, if not having a cup of coffee in the morning means you’re going to have a killer migraine the whole day, have a cup of coffee. If taking your prescription medication means being able to function throughout the day without having a panic attack, take the medication. To put it simply, if somebody were to come to me with a broken arm, if I were to do a Reiki session on them, I could help them with their pain, put their mind at ease, help them feel comforted… but their arm is still clearly broken, and I am not the person who can set it. It is the same with the unseen ailments as well. Reiki practictioners work with cancer patients or people with chronic pain and illness, and usually it is always in conjunction with professional medical intervention.
I am not trying to shame witches who legitimately are trying to help their friends and family members. And I do realize that some witches are medically trained professionals who are experts at marrying the two worlds of natural remedies and modern medicine together. This advice is not so much for them: We must help responsibly. Not just for the sake of the person, but for your own protection. If you claim a tea you’ve brewed will help them with a toothache and the next morning, they wake up and it hurts just as bad or worse, what then? Or, what if you give them something they unknowingly are allergic to? That’s the thing with natural medicine. It’s trial and error because what works for you may not work for somebody else and, in fact, might be harmful to another person. Understand your limits and make it clear exactly what you aim to achieve with your treatment. Know what the potential side effects are, know what the liability is to yourself if it goes wrong, and most importantly, if you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to tell yourself, friend, or family member that they need to schedule a doctor’s appointment.