Herbal Supplements Vs. Synthetic Medication

Woman holding a white pill to her mouth.
Photo by Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

As a nurse with almost 30 years under my belt, I have seen my fair share of illness and suffering.

I have administered multiple forms of medications for various conditions and have seen how they can save lives and provide quality of life.

I have also seen how these medications can aggravate or induce new conditions which require more medications.

Even worse, I have seen medication, aka synthetic drugs, kill people.

I realize prescription medications are essential for many people to manage their illness, and they save lives every day.

Unfortunately, they also destroy lives and are being developed to line the pockets of the already wealthy pharmaceutical companies.

A person standing against a dark sky with beautiful golden stardust floating all around.
Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Drugs are being glamorized on TV and held out there like glitter dust sprinkled on whatever it is that is ailing them.

In most cases, the problem is that these drugs are nothing more than wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing.

Frequently these drugs cause more health problems, side effects, dependence and do nothing more than mask the root problem.

There is a time and place for synthetic drugs, but in my opinion, they should be saved for emergency use or when lifestyle, nutrition, and plant medicine are ineffective.

So, first of all, before making any treatment decisions, whether an herbal supplement or synthetic medication, you should consider the following:

Create a Better Terrain


  • Stop smoking
  • Start moving- make a regular habit of walking (outside whenever possible)
  • Expose yourself to the sun, fresh air, and nature every day
  • Strengthen your body (work out, exercise, play hard)
  • Nourish your spirit and decrease stress


  • Load up on fresh veggies and fruits
  • Cut out or decrease ultra-processed food.
  • Switch out refined fake foods for real food (olive oil or butter instead of margarine, real cream or milk instead of non-dairy creamer, etc.).
  • Cut out or decrease sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, or artificially flavored drinks. Instead, try water with a splash of juice, unsweetened tea, herbal tea, etc.).

You can learn more in my free E-book, Clean Eating — Nonrestrictive, Natural, Sustainable, and Easy, A Complete Guide with Recipes.

So, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of alternative herbal supplements.

Alternative herbal supplements are starting to gain serious consideration as a solution to address the growing number of health-related concerns today.

Rather than using synthetic medications commonly prescribed by their doctors, savvy consumers today are looking for an alternative solution to address their health problems without having to dish out hundreds of dollars for treatment, as well as risking potential allergic reactions common with synthetic drugs.

Before starting on your journey towards alternative healing, it would be best to know the advantages and disadvantages so you can make an informed decision and ensure safety for yourself and your family.

The Advantages of Using Alternative Herbal Supplements

Advantage 1 — Whole plant medicine works synergistically

Multiple compounds in the plant work synergistically to produce better results with little to no side effects.

This synergistic effect occurs because some of the various compounds within the plant are different while others are similar. These compounds have an effect called homeostasis, which means they are working to do what the body needs at the time.

If you check out the labels of quality herbal products, you will see that they are primarily from the extracts of plants. No synthetic chemicals and formulas are needed to provide the wanted effect. When shopping for products, you want to ensure they are high quality with 3rd party testing.

Advantage 2 — Cost-Effective Solution

One of the advantages of herbal products is their price. They are cheaper than synthetic medicines commonly prescribed by doctors today.

The reason why alternative herbal medicines are cheaper is:

  1. No expensive chemicals are needed to formulate the product, and the ingredients can be grown almost anywhere under the right conditions.
  2. Companies or individuals that sell herbal supplements have no patents and no individual ownership over the products they sell.
  3. There is very little research and development needed. The plant is what it is.

Advantage 3 — Less Chance for Allergic Reactions or overdose

Pharmaceutical research will identify a single compound in a plant and discard the rest.

The reason for this is to simplify and speed up the process.

A single compound can be manufactured in standardized, pure dosages, simplifying clinical trials.

Synthetic drugs have one effect and push the body’s reaction to do one thing, which usually has the opposite effect on another body system and throws the body out of sync.

When the body is out of sync, new issues arise as a side effect or cause other conditions requiring a new therapy or drug.

And then this goes on and on, creating even more medical issues.

All Benefiting Big Pharma, I might add!

The third leading cause of death in the world up to 2019 was unintentional overdose.

For the last 60,000 years, herbs and plants have been used to support health and treat illness. How often do you hear about an overdose or medical error from an herb?

The Disadvantages of Using Herbal Medicines

Disadvantage 1 — Lack of governance

The FDA monitors herbal supplements for safety and quality but only as a dietary supplement which means they do not have to undergo the same strict testing processes as synthetic drugs do.

Disadvantage 2 — Lack of Education

Just because an herb is natural does not mean it is safe.

There are very potent herbs and plants that can be deadly.

When used with certain prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or supplements, they can cause dangerous side effects and complications.

Proper formulation and dosage are necessary for safe use.

Consumers should follow the dosage indicated on the herbal medicine label and consult a health expert, reputable herbalist, or family doctor to safely determine the proper usage of the product.

Disadvantage 3 — Risk of Side Effects, Complications, and Contraindications

Like some synthetic medication, some herbal supplements should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding moms, children, or the elderly.

Some supplements also need to be avoided before surgery or when taking other medications.

Knowledge = Power

There are reputable herbal courses and workshops available that can offer a plethora of information.

But if studying herbalism is not an option, many trustworthy herbalists can provide direction.

There is no certification or licensing criteria to become an herbalist, but a rigorous registration process is optional through The American Herbalist Guild. You can search for someone in your area.

Knowledge is power and gives us the ability to be self-reliant and not dependent on big greedy corporations.

Safety Tips When Using Herbal Supplements

  • Research the herbal supplement before you take it. Here are some reputable sites.

National Institute of Health

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Office of Dietary Supplements

  • Follow the supplement instructions- more does not equate better.
  • Take only one new supplement at a time and document the name, dose, time, and any symptoms. If it is not helping, then don’t continue taking it.
  • Make sure you are shopping from a reputable company that has testing performed by an independent 3rd party like ConsumerLab.com or US Pharmacopeia Convention (USP).

Mother Earth News did a review and named these five companies as reputable.

  • Check the FDA website regularly as they monitor for any reports of adverse effects.
  • Learn how to make your own tinctures and medicines. The Herbal Academy has some great workshops and courses.
  • Remember, herbs and plants are meant to support wellness. They are not meant to cure disease. Keeping healthy in the first place is the best practice. Reread Create a Better Terrain above.
  • Never treat medical conditions on your own without the guidance of a medical professional.

Let me know if you use herbs or plants to support your wellness and if so which ones? What kind of experience have you had? I would love to hear from you.

I am not an MD or nutritionist and am not providing nutrition or medical advice. The information discussed in this article is my interpretation of information solely based on my research. Please discuss any supplements or dietary changes with your healthcare provider.

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