Home & Garden Gardening

Natural is Not Necessarily Safe

There has been a lot of press lately towards using "natural" products to treat illnesses, kill pests, and fertilize plants instead of "synthetic" chemicals.
The assumption has been if it is natural, or organic, it is safe.
This is not necessarily so for several reasons.
Take the foxglove plant, Digitalis purpurea.
The foxglove plant was traditionally used to regulate heartbeats and strengthen the heart.
The drug digitalis originally came from this plant.
It saves many lives.
However, the plant itself is poisonous if eaten because of this compound.
Many herbs contain medicinal compounds that were used to treat health problems before modern medicine.
In many cases, these herbs, and the skilled practitioners that used them to treat patients, worked.
In some cases, though, the old uses for herbs were harmful or have such severe side effects that modern medicine does a better job of treating the illness.
In organic farming, the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is prohibited.
However, some organic compounds are prohibited.
Nicotine, arsenic, and cyanide are among them.
Old timers will tell you tobacco juice (from chewing tobacco) will kill grasshoppers.
It will, but it kills everything else too.
That is why it is prohibited in organic gardening.
Many "organic" remedies are packaged as supplements to avoid FDA scrutiny.
Many times when the ingredients are analyzed in a laboratory, the supplements either do not have the product in them that they claim, or they have ingredients in them that are not on the label.
Such products should be used with caution.
I am not saying using herbal remedies in place of modern pharmaceuticals is wrong.
Nor am I saying organic farming is bad.
I am simply saying that just because something is natural or organic does not mean it is safe.
Scrutinize the herb or remedy carefully before using.
Make sure you know what is in that remedy and what the side effects are before you use it.
Everything has side effects, including herbs.
They may be less noxious than when taking some synthetic compounds, but they exist.
Finally, understand that not all organic compound, whether they are pesticides, medicines, or supplements, are safe.
(Think ricin, used to poison several people in the last few years).
Not all synthetic compounds are evil.
Use the same caution when using organic items that you would with any other product so that you can make an informed choice.

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