View Full Version : What does Natural Mean?


anonymouslyadd
06-06-12, 11:59 AM
In my culture, natural medicine refers to something "good." I get the impression that something natural is safer or better than regular medicine.

What is natural and what makes it more natural than regular medicine? Marijuana is natural too, and that's illegal. Poison ivy is natural as well, but you won't find me digesting it.:giggle:

I'm just curious.

Dizfriz
06-06-12, 01:01 PM
In my culture, natural medicine refers to something "good." I get the impression that something natural is safer or better than regular medicine.

What is natural and what makes it more natural than regular medicine? Marijuana is natural too, and that's illegal. Poison ivy is natural as well, but you won't find me digesting it.

I'm just curious.

This comes up from time to time, the idea that natural things are good and artificial is bad.

Here is a list of poisonous plants. Each one is "natural". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_poisonous_plants

Arsenic is quite natural as are lead, mercury, and some forms of radioactivity.

This idea of natural being harmless has gotten a lot of people in trouble but it is hard to dislodge from people's minds.

Basically anything you ingest has the potential for causing harm. You have only to look at the potentially terrible effects of dihydrogen monoxide to see.

Dizfriz

hanikamiya
06-06-12, 01:48 PM
Originally, the word meant a distinction between items that just existed and such that were processed and created by human skill - artificial. That distinction seems to be learnt very early or even be hardwired into our brain.

In our current world, there is almost nothing left that isn't at least partially artificial, so the trend is to discern between low and high levels of processing, how easy the procedure is to do for the layman, and between ingredients that are similar or dissimilar to the product.

Marijuana seems to be 'natural' to us because the ingredient is a plant, and the procedure of getting it can be done by anyone with a bit of practice.
But the truth is that the cultivars that are currently used for marijuana production have a much higher content of THC than used to be some 30 years ago. That is the result of selective breeding and I don't think there's anything natural about selective breeding for traits humans want to see.

What also plays into the estimation people have of how 'natural' something is, is that many people have some beliefs about the core or essence of items. For example, if you know that your artificial flavour was made from a tree ('natural' ingredient that may be edible) it seems to be much more natural and palatable than the same chemical compound made out of fossil oil (which seems 'unnatural' and certainly not edible). More than that, there are people who believe there's something like a memory to atoms so that they knew whether they should be a tree or fossil oil, and that they will act like 'tree' or 'petroleum' in your body.


Something completely different is that because patents run only for 20-25 years, pharmaceutical companies need new chemical compounds to sell at high prices to sustain their business model. That means that there were and are a lot of compounds on the market that we simply don't know of how they affect a human body in the long run. Hearing about compounds that proved to be dangerous or useless makes many people feel suspicious about such 'artificial' compounds and hearing that a compound is extracted from a plant or was used in natural remedies for a long time can make them feel more positive about it.

tl;dr
It's not real, but makes people feel better about using a product. I think.

spc123
06-06-12, 03:17 PM
I would argue that the word as it applies to food, medicine and other products is close to meaningless. It has been co-opted by business to sell products.

If you take a strict approach, natural is anything that exists without human interaction. This is still not useful in determining how you live your life, as picking an apple is a form of human interaction, and so eating an apple from a store is inherently unnatural.

anonymouslyadd
06-06-12, 03:20 PM
I would argue that the word as it applies to food, medicine and other products is close to meaningless. It has been co-opted by business to sell products.
The fact that businesses use it to market their products demonstrates it has great meaning.

What pops into your mind when you hear "natural" associated with a product?

Do you think pure, good, clean, etc.? These adjectives make natural very meaningful.

spc123
06-06-12, 04:47 PM
Well that's a different question. In consideration of goods and services: What does natural mean? Not much. What do people THINK natural means? Quite a lot.

Advertising has associated "natural" with fresh air, green pastures and crystal clear streams. People associate "natural" with "healthy". They wrongly assume that anything labelled natural must be healthy. The fact is, natural as it appears on products has absolutely nothing to do with the relative healthfulness of the product, nor anything to do with how the product was made. There are no federal guidelines in the US for the use of the term "natural", so there is broad leeway for business to use the term.

If you want a more comprehensive answer, you can check out the following link:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3042/is_12_41/ai_n29142916/

The bottom line is that cosmetics, toiletries and fragrances are not regulated by the USDA, but rather, by the FDA. The FDA has no specific regulations regarding the claim natural. Furthermore, unlike organic claims there are no state regulations regarding the claim natural. California is the only state that regulates organic claims for all products.

Unmanagable
06-06-12, 04:50 PM
I kind of view it as manipulative more than meaningful in the majority of the marketing arenas. Way too many folks are quick to pick items based on a single term vs. educating themselves on what the manufacturer, or whoever it may be, is selling and the effects it could have on them.

Drewbacca
06-06-12, 05:01 PM
Silk soymilk is made from "natural soybeans" but used to be made from "organic soybeans." LOL
I love labels. BTW any Americans that visit Canada, be sure to note how much more accurate and honest their food labeling system is. On a similar note, they also don't have vanilla flavoring in the soy milk at Starbucks up there... I really need to move. :p

anonymouslyadd
06-06-12, 06:13 PM
Well that's a different question. In consideration of goods and services: What does natural mean? Not much. What do people THINK natural means? Quite a lot.
Actually, I was responding to your comment "co-opted by business." I'm interested in what natural medicine means when you compare it to regular pharmaceutical medicine.
Advertising has associated "natural" with fresh air, green pastures and crystal clear streams. People associate "natural" with "healthy".

And Bingo was his name-o.:)
They wrongly assume that anything labelled natural must be healthy. The fact is, natural as it appears on products has absolutely nothing to do with the relative healthfulness of the product, nor anything to do with how the product was made.
I agree.

TheChemicals
06-06-12, 06:55 PM
natural in the US means anything that doesnt work.

spc123
06-06-12, 06:56 PM
Actually, I was responding to your comment "co-opted by business." I'm interested in what natural medicine means when you compare it to regular pharmaceutical medicine.

Well this will certainly show my own bias, but I take a rather negative opinion of natural medicine. There are many examples, but I will pick the one with the most evidence in its favor: herbal medicines.

The fact is, while not all herbal remedies are effective, there is quite a bit of evidence supporting some of them. For example St. John's Wort has been shown effective in treating depression. Even so, I wouldn't consider it a rational choice over pharmaceuticals. For one, it isn't regulated, so you have no idea what concentrations you are getting when you buy it. Even if the seller is completely honest, it's impossible to know the exact concentrations of active ingredient. As well it's not tracked by various pharmacy tracking systems, so there is a greater danger of missing potential drug interactions. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is no evidence that shows any advantage to taking it over a pharmaceutical alternative; quite the opposite in fact.

So my initial impression of natural remedies is certainly negative, and my initial opinion of someone who chooses to pursue natural remedies is that they are misinformed. That said, I am certainly willing to listen to any persons point of view, and consider it on its merits. If you have St. John's Wort growing in your back yard, and you find it lifts your mood and makes you feel better day to day, by all means continue to use it. If, on the other hand, you have major depressive disorder and you're suicidal, perhaps you'd best stick to dealing with medical professionals, and follow their advice.

Amtram
06-07-12, 12:32 PM
"Natural" as applied to stuff you buy in the health food stores means "not tested for safety or efficacy," in my mind. I also don't buy it as a factual statement when it's on a product from a major manufacturer!

Twiggy
06-07-12, 12:45 PM
Natural is something not man made, but a lot of people think it's safer/better than man made things.

The thing is, "Natural supplements" are not regulated for safety nor effectiveness.
Medications on the other hand are regulated, they have to be by federal law.

I'd rather take a medication that is proven to work than to take something "Natural".

ana futura
06-08-12, 09:28 PM
Of course just because something is natural doesn't make it healthy. Of course it's a terrible idea to eat poison ivy or deadly nightshade. You wouldn't eat synthetic poisons either, they're poisons. It seems to me that this discussion is not quite nuanced enough. If given a choice between an organic apple, and an apple raised with pesticides, I'm going with the organic apple. As the word "natural" is commonly understood, the apple is natural, the pesticides are not.

Food additives and household chemicals are not healthy to be exposed to. I'm of the opinion that pharmaceuticals are not all that healthy either, but the benefit outweighs the risk. With lysol or DDT or parabens, the risk outweighs the benefits.

Drewbacca
06-09-12, 04:05 AM
As the word "natural" is commonly understood, the apple is natural, the pesticides are not.


Unfortunately, as it is understood, plays no part in labeling and/or advertising.

Interesting that you didn't throw GMO foods into that equation. I would say that many equate GMO as unnatural (a position which I generally disagree on). That's not to say that I do/don't prefer GMO because ultimately, it depends on what they were trying to develop. I think it's kind of sad that strawberries are half the size of apples and often taste like ****. I'd rather have a tiny flavorful fruit then a large water bubble.

Less pesticide is always a good thing, especially for someone who is too lazy to wash veggies like I am. I just want to walk out of the store and dig in right away! Pesticides are a good example. There is a natural type of pesticide such as thoughtful planting of various things that insects dislike. Sort of like a ceder closet to keep the moths away.

ana futura
06-09-12, 01:22 PM
Interesting that you didn't throw GMO foods into that equation. I would say that many equate GMO as unnatural (a position which I generally disagree on). That's not to say that I do/don't prefer GMO because ultimately, it depends on what they were trying to develop. I think it's kind of sad that strawberries are half the size of apples and often taste like ****. I'd rather have a tiny flavorful fruit then a large water bubble.


As far as GMO foods are concerned, we really don't know enough to say whether it's a good idea at this point. Some GMO foods may well be harmless, or even good, but I'm afraid that many will eventually reveal themselves to be harmful. Why are we REALLY growing GMO crops? To end hunger? Doubtful. The main purpose of GMO is to maximize profit on crops like corn and soy, which often aren't grown for human consumption. Monsanto's terminator gene is a terrible idea.

If we are really concerned with quality and availability of food, GMO's are not the way to solve things. Growing a more diverse array of local crops on a smaller scale is.

Instead of focusing on natural vs unnatural, I prefer to focus on the potential for harm. Often the least "harmful" choice is the "natural" choice as well.

Your supermarket strawberry (or potato, or apple, or anything), while not a gmo food, has still been engineered through decades of selective breeding. They're perhaps closer to "natural" than a GMO food, but still not as "natural" as an older variety of berry. "Heirloom" type produce, while not as physically attractive, is always preferable in taste and nutrients.

"Natural" is a complicated word, and as a marketing term it is as worthless as "wholesome", but if a food product claims to be 100% natural, then it can not contain lab manufactured synthetic ingredients.

It may still involve a lot of human intervention, but it's a step in the right direction. Carton Orange Juice is a highly manufactured thing, but it's still a better choice than Tang if fresh squeezed is unavailable. The most "natural" choice would be a juice made from a locally grown seasonal crop.

ana futura
06-09-12, 01:40 PM
As far as "natural" medicine or "alternative" treatments are concerned, the reason we do not have much research regarding effectiveness is because the products are not patentable and therefore aren't as profitable as pharmaceuticals.

I would love for this to change. I don't doubt that there are a large number of sick people taking drugs for things they could manage through diet and herbal treatments alone. Pharmaceuticals have their place, but I believe they are overprescribed.

It's quite possible that 5htp might be a better choice than SSRI's for many, but we will likely never know, because there is not enough profit potential in 5htp to persue significant research into the subject.

It's quite possible that some people would be better served by taking valerian or melatonin instead of Ativan, but again, significant research is unlikely.

And because there is not enough profit potential in "natural" remedies to concern big pharma, they are left unregulated, for opportunistic vitamin manufacturers to sell as they wish. So it's then up to the consumer to determine the effectiveness of an unregulated potentially dangerous product, a product which may in fact have great unrealized treatment potential.

Amtram
06-09-12, 09:58 PM
Actually, that's not entirely true. If they can isolate the active ingredient and put it in a delivery system so it can be sold OTC or by prescription, then there's profit in it. Pharmacognosia is a valid scientific pursuit, and many of the medications we use today were derived from chemicals found in nature. However, if the evidence does not show that an ingredient show potential for use, or for better results than existing medications, it's not going to be studied. So, rather than not being studied because a treatment won't be patentable, it's usually not studied because it shows little evidence of being any better than something that already exists.

ana futura
06-09-12, 11:00 PM
Far more research is put into Valium than Valerian. A lot of of times the herbal remedies that pharmaceuticals are derived from are much less "harsh", with less side effects. The origin plant may be less effective, but sometimes less effective is actually better.

Ma huang tea is a lot like sudafed, but "softer" feeling. It's not as effective as sudafed for clearing out your sinuses, but for a light mellow stimulant it's rather nice. Dexdedrine was first synthesized from a plant, but I've forgotten what. I'd be so curious to try it.

I'm super sensitive to most pharmaceuticals, they usually seem like overkill to me- Unecessarily strong with lots of side effects. I usually prefer herbal remedies because they don't feel so harsh to me.

Of course sometimes the origin plant has more side effects, in which case isolating the active ingredient makes perfect sense.

mctavish23
06-09-12, 11:51 PM
Don't forget... "natural" talents and abilities.

spunkysmum
06-10-12, 12:54 AM
Poison ivy is natural as well, but you won't find me digesting it.:giggle:

I'm just curious.

Hehe. I remember reading a story about some hunters - or was it fishermen? - outdoorsmen anyway - although not very good ones possibly - anyway, they used poison ivy for natural toilet paper. LOL!

spunkysmum
06-10-12, 12:57 AM
Actually, that's not entirely true. If they can isolate the active ingredient and put it in a delivery system so it can be sold OTC or by prescription, then there's profit in it.

Not to mention the natural supplement-peddlers with the high mark-up products who want you to believe that only THEIR formula has the real medicinal benefits that only their special extracting system (usually a trademarked process with its own brand name) can deliver it in the form that your body can readily use.