Popular Drugs and Their Natural Versions
Do you ever wonder if there are natural alternatives to the prescription drugs you are currently taking? It seems like everyone who is on prescription-this or prescription-that wants to find an herbal or natural version and get off the pharmaceutical medicine once and for all.
I was intrigued by a recent news story that noted how practically every prescription drug has a “natural version” that is often more safe (and cheaper!) than the traditional medication. Pharmacists will usually not say anything about these natural remedies even if you ask them. In fairness to pharmacists and their profession, there’s a good reason for that: it’s not their job.
In any case, in my research for natural versions of the two prescriptions I have, I discovered a treasure trove of data about this subject. Soon, I realized that no matter what drug someone is taking, there exists an herbal or plant-based counterpart.
Keep in mind that some pharmaceutical drugs can’t just be “swapped out” for a plant or herb. If only life where that easy! But the good news is that some of the most commonly prescribed drugs do indeed have herbal counterparts that millions of people take advantage of.
The trail seemed hot, so I dug up what I could find on the subject and my results are below. See if any of the drugs you take are listed as having “natural counterparts,” which is code talk for herbs and plant-based remedies.
The information is arranged so that you can see a listing of the “most prescribed” drugs first, and become familiar with some of the key names and terms in this discussion.
Next up, there are resources where you’ll find all the major drugs listed with then natural counterparts, and then a listing of the top 50 drugs. For those who take anti-depressants, the next section discusses that category in isolation, because it deserves special treatment due to its sensitive nature and connection with the mental health field.
Last but not least is a resource section with books and videos for those who want to learn more about this important topic. But for now, here is the low-down on the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., and why doctors recommend them for their patients.
The Most-prescribed Drugs in the U.S.
There’s no question that we live in a “medicated” culture. The sad state of affairs is a reflection of the fact that too many people flatly refuse to do anything about causes, but prefer to treat symptoms instead. What does this mean for the drug industry?
It means they make a ton of money by doing what millions of consumers want them to do: treat the symptoms. Unfortunately, this setup means that the human race as a whole ends up maintaining unwise lifestyle choices and awful eating habits.
There’s no sense in placing blame on physicians, pharmaceutical companies or anyone else. The fault rests squarely on the consumers who want the “quick fix” treatment options. There’s just so much bad news in this situation, that it’s hard to sugar-coat the facts. Here are a few more sobering statistics:
The leading cause of accidental death is over-dose or wrongly-dosed painkillers, and “medical errors” now stand as one of the top five leading causes of premature/preventable death. Of the top 7 most prescribed drugs, there are only 8 categories of conditions represented: hypertension, antacids, antibiotics, diabetes, antipsychotics, hypothyroidism, cholesterol maintenance, and pain.
The top 7 most-prescribed drugs, and what they are given for are represented in the following list, in order:
Hydrocodone, aka acetaminophen and vicodin: This is the big winner in the race for “most prescribed,” and this one drug alone accounts for about 20 percent of all prescriptions written for the top 7 drugs. It used to be rare for doctors to give narcotics for anything but severe pain, but nowadays the medical profession gives this stuff to just about anyone who complains of minor to moderate pain.
Statins aka Lipitor, Crestor: Of the top prescribed drugs, statins make up about 15 percent of the grand total, almost as much as hydrocodone. The big danger with statins is their link in clinical studies to an elevated risk for type-2 diabetes. Another major complaint some researchers have about statins is that they have never really been proven to do anything but cut cholesterol levels. Low LDL cholesterol is of questionable value as far as medical experts go, so there’s a good chance that all statins are actually being prescribed for no reason whatsoever.
Norvasc and Lisinopril: These drugs are on the most prescribed list are usually grouped together because they are chemically similar and treat the same conditions, namely blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. Together, they constitute almost one-quarter of all of the top prescribed drugs. So, as a pair, they’d be at the top of the list, but individually, they only rand third.
Levothyroxine, aka synthroid: It’s a drug for hypothryroidism and makes up about 10 percent of the top-7 list of prescriptions.
Prilosec, aka nexium: This is one that is really nothing more than a prescription antacid, but it still accounts for nearly 10 percent of the top 7 prescriptions. In many countries, but not the U.S. yet, it is an over-the-counter medication, used mostly for acid-reflux and ulcers.
Amoxicillin/azithromycin: These antibiotics are sixth on the top 7 list and are the most commonly prescribed antibiotic in the world. Some medical professionals think the widespread use of this drug class has caused a generalized human resistance to antibiotics.
Glucophage, aka metformin: This anti-diabetic can be taken orally rather than with a syringe, which makes it quite popular with patients who are averse to needles. Standing at 7 on the top 7 list, it is however growing rapidly in popularity, especially among newly-diagnosed type-2 diabetes patients.
Drugs and Nature
So what’s the ruckus about “natural counterparts” for the most prescribed drugs, and why do we even need a natural alternative at all? Well, there are some pretty nasty side-effects for each of the top 7, and some people who have allergic reactions can’t even take them at all.
So, the bottom line is that each of the big 7 comes with its own list of side effects, but thankfully has a natural alternative that seems to work for many people. The natural option is by no means a magic bullet, but when you’re allergic to what your doctor wants to give you, then you at least have some choices.
Here is how those same seven drugs stack up in terms of side-effects and natural counterparts, with side-effects listed first, then the natural alternative.
Hydrocodone, aka acetaminophen and vicodin: Coma, seizures, liver damage. Options: Green vegetables, red pepper, berries, ginger, celery.
Statins aka Lipitor, Crestor: Muscle disorders, cancer, diabetes, kidney problems. Options: Green tea, apples, cranberries, nuts.
Norvasc and Lisinopril: Blood disorders, impotence, cancer. Options: Nuts, coconut oil, and anything with high doses of vitamin C.
Levothyroxine, aka synthroid: Thyroid problems and high blood glucose levels. Options: Fish, radishes, parsley and seaweed.
Prilosec, aka nexium: Heart rhythm problems, angina, high blood pressure. Options: broccoli, honey, slippery elm and grapefruit.
Amoxicillin/azithromycin: Stomach lining deterioration, liver inflammation, colon problems. Option: Nuts, sardines, salmon, turmeric, garlic, and sunlight.
Glucophage, aka metformin: Poor absorption of vitamin B12, lactic acidosis, decreased kidney and liver function. Option: Sunlight (for vitamin D), black teas, turmeric, coffee, green vegetables, red grapes, oatmeal, spinach and broccoli.
What We’re Taking: The Big List of 50 Top Drugs
Here’s a handy list for your refrigerator or as a quick-look PDF file on your phone. It is simply the top 50 prescribed drugs as of the first half of 2016, in the United States, courtesy of lowestmed.com, a useful resource website that is a one-stop place for anyone with questions about prescription drugs. They have a really cool “pill identifier” tab that lets users figure out what a drug is by deciphering the words and letters on the pill itself.
This is a very useful little tool because older people often misplace their medications after taking them out of the original containers. Because so many pills look alike, the pill identifier is an accurate way to determine exactly what those letters and numbers mean. It is highly accurate and worth a try if you ever need to ID a “mystery pill” you find in your purse or under the refrigerator (a location that misplaced pills seem to seek out).
Here’s the list, with generic names first and the most popular trade name in parentheses):
Don’t Forget the Anti-depressants
More than 25 million Americans take anti-depressant drugs, most of which are prescribed by psychiatrists. Some of the common anti-depressants have severe, long-lasting side-effects that include debilitating headaches, hallucinations, weight gain, incontinence, phobias, and balance problems.
Thankfully, there are some natural alternative for these drugs too, and many people have found relief with them. If you are taking anti-depressants or think you might need to, be absolutely certain to speak with your doctor and discuss the best route to take. Many psychiatrists are very open to letting patients experiment with natural alternatives. For some reason, the psychiatric profession is more willing to view these natural counterparts as worthwhile things to try. So, be sure to speak with your doctor and see if you might be able to use any of the following natural alternatives for anti-depressants:
SAM-e: This over-the-counter compound has been shown in some studies to treat depression faster and more effectively than conventional psychiatric drugs.
Tryptophan: A popular amino acid that is used to treat depression, anxiety, memory loss, and eating disorders.
Saffron: This spice, make popular by pop singer Donavan in the 1960s, has been used all over the world to treat not just anti-depression but sexual dysfunction, and inflammation.
Turmeric and/or curcumin: These two wonder herbs have been used to treat depression for centuries, and are the main go-to herb for many people who don’t want to take Prozac.
Arctic root: Often used in China and Scandinavia for what doctors call SAD, seasonal affective disorder.
Learn More About Your Prescription Drugs
The Internet is a deep resource for anyone interested in the field of alternative medicine, pharmacy science, and all things herbal. The following resources should prove highly useful for those who want to know more about the medicines they take and whether there are effective, natural substitutes for them.
The video and books listed below offer everything from an encyclopedia of natural medicine to a short clip about the top 10 prescribed drugs. When it comes to your own health, it pays to stay informed and to keep up to date on news in the drug industry. Every week, official agencies and corporate manufacturers announce new drug “breakthroughs” that may or may not impact your personal medical situation. The point is to stay in the loop, and know when a more advance version of your medication arrives on the market. Being an informed consumer will also let you know when generics are released, or are about to be. Developments like that can mean money in your pocket. The drug industry can sometimes seem like an enormously complex monster that is impossible to understand or decipher. That’s not the case for those who want to be informed and make an effort to learn about all things related to the medicines they take.
Here is a clever and interesting little summary about the top 10 prescribed drugs and what each one is used for. If you’ve ever wondered about some of those product names you hear on TV advertisements, here is the short answer, in video format.
Natural Alternatives to Over-The-counter and Prescription Drugs
Do you want a giant list of prescription drugs and their natural counterparts? Well, this is it! A perfect reference book for anyone who is interested in the ins and outs of the pharmacy business, what each popular drug contains, how they all work, and which ones have viable natural counterparts.
You don’t have to be a clinician to appreciate this volume. It is a succinct journal for natural medicine enthusiasts, as well as a handy reference for every well-appointed bookshelf.
The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
With a word like “encyclopedia” in the title, it’s no secret that this book is indeed the standard in the field of natural medicine. Comprehensive in scope, well written and aimed at a wide audience, this readable text is packed with intriguing nuggets about the world of natural medicine, its history, the major players, all the key herbal and plant-based medicines, and much more.
For those who have even a passing interest in natural healing, the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine gets the job done, and then some. For those new to the subject, reading this from cover to cover would be the ideal crash course.
Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do
The giveaway is in the title, so we know right off the bat where this author is coming from. He’s obviously on the side of the alternative medical practitioners and against traditional pharmaceutical medicine. But that’s okay because he makes his case well, all while offering studies and research citations about drugs that have gone bad and done great amounts of harm.
Not just a negative bash-up job against the drug industry, the author is even-handed in his analysis and goes out of his way to tell both sides of the story, but in the end he clearly opts for the natural way rather than the traditional one.
Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements: The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally
Here’s a how-to book that you can use to “treat yourself,” so to speak. Even though we stand by our warning about discussing everything with your own physician first, there are some real gems in this book, starting out with a big list of ways you can heal common ailments with safe supplements.
The supplement field is rife with controversy. That just seems to be its nature! But the author of this clever, informative book explains how nutritional supplements, when carefully chosen, can deliver wonderful benefits.
If you are interested in finding a nutri-supplement for whatever ails you, then this book will rise to the challenge. It’s the perfect place to start for anyone with an interest in supplements and even those who are well-versed on the subject already.
Master List of Prescription Drugs
How about a huuuge, master-list of prescribed drugs and what each one is intended to treat? WebMD comes to the rescue in fine form on that challenge. The link above will take you directly to their page of alphabetized prescription drugs. That way, you can look up your favorites quickly and see what their main purpose is, even if that’s not why your own doctor told you to take it.
Another helpful way to use this list is for finding “natural counterparts” via a simple Internet search. Let’s say you take drug XYZ, and have an appointment to see you doctor tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be nice to find out if there are herbal supplements that can do the same thing the drug does? A quick search-engine view of “natural counterpart for XYZ” can reveal much. You’ll see not only if there is a natural alternative to XYZ, but might discover that there are several of them.
Armed with that data, you can have an informed discussion with your doctor about possible substitutions of an herbal remedy for the prescription drug you’re now taking.
Nature Takes Its Course
The prescription drug business is one of the largest sectors of the global economy, so it helps to know about alternatives to expensive drugs and therapies. Be careful not to assume that just because a drug has a “natural counterpart,” that the counterpart is as effective or as safe as the drug itself.
In many cases, as we’ve seen above, drugs can be safer and work better than a plant or herb from which it is derived. So there should be no rush to substitute herbal or plant-based remedies for drugs you now take. The information presented above is meant to explain the interesting relationship that exists between processed pharmaceutical drugs and natural substances.
Given that warning, there are cases where people with illnesses have benefitted from taking a more natural form of the medicine prescribed to them. It’s also interesting to notice that practically every major drug sold in the U.S. and elsewhere has at least one plant-based component that delivers similar benefits. That’s a sobering fact for anyone who thinks the pharmaceutical industry came into being without any help from the world of natural medicine.
We’ve seen time and again how the modern day drug industry owes much of its existence to ancient practices and natural healing remedies from the Middle Ages and likely even before that. For modern consumers, it helps to stay informed about drugs and what they are prescribed for.
If you are taking any pharmaceutical drugs and want to learn more about natural counterparts, read up on the subject, do online research and speak with your physician about possible ways that you might be able to swap out a medication for a more natural remedy. Always follow the advice of your personal health care professional in cases like these. But, it never hurts to ask; regardless of what you think might be the response.
We never offer medical advice, so if you have a concern about your state of health, be sure to speak with a physician or other medical professional. This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be any kind of official medical guidance.
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