So I read this post by Rationalist Conspiracy (“Why Most Online Medical Information Sucks“) and felt the need to add my own item to the list: because it’s contradictory. Now, my latest foray into online medical information is in regards to herbal remedies, not things like appendicitis, but here’s the rant.
I’m sniffly. Sore throat. Stuffy nose. I purchased a big bag of Hall’s Defense Drops and had been downing them by the handful when I started to feel woozy. Looked at the bag and saw that I was the victim of the “let’s put herbs in every damn product that can have herbs” movement – the drops are full of echinacea.
So I googled the side effects of echinacea and found this:
“Auto-immune disorders” such as such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a skin disorder called pemphigus vulgaris, or others: Echinacea might have an effect on the immune system that could make these conditions worse. Don’t take echinacea if you have an auto-immune disorder.
I do not have MS, lupus, or RA, but I have Raynaud’s, which is often the first symptom of those diseases: Raynaud’s is either its own autoimmune disease (primary Raynaud’s), or, with secondary Raynaud’s, comes along with or prior to other, related autoimmune diseases (e.g. the three mentioned). So no echinacea for white-fingered moi.
If you google Raynaud’s and echinacea, however, you’ll find articles suggesting the herb as a remedy for the auto-immune disease.
Yes, it could be possible that primary Raynaud’s is treatable with (or not exacerbated by) an herb that is a problem for those with secondary Raynaud’s. Problematically, however, you think you have primary Raynaud’s right up until you develop MS, at which point you realise that the white fingers were the first warning of a bigger, scarier disease. Beyond that, those diseases are so related that it’s hard to imagine how the precursor condition would be helped by the same drug that exacerbates related conditions. It’s possible, but it’s also possible that every molecule in my body could turn into a wave at the exact same moment – and no one plans her life around such probabilities.