Book Review: Your Natural Medicine Cabinet

I am a bit of a cynical homeopath. I prefer natural medicine options to most commercial medicine, but I do not assume the so-called “natural” remedy is always the best option or even the safest. Just because something is “natural” does not make it safe or effective. I was interested in Lennihan’s work because of her extensive experience (over 16 years as a holistic health professional). She is the type of person I am more likely to take seriously.

Your Natural Medicine Cabinet could be a good starter book for individuals interested in learning more about homeopathic healing, but much of the instruction and advice should be considered with a [healthy] grain of [natural sea] salt. While the practical remedies presented by Lennihan are well-rooted in established homeopathic medicine, she also tends to veer off into the type of questionable pseudo-science that leads many people to reject all natural healing methodology as quackery. Reasonable people can agree that whole foods are healthier than processed foods. But when Lennihan starts claiming that people cured their own cancer with changes to their diet, I get nervous.

Another problem with the book is that Lennihan tends to make sweeping statements of fact without citing sources. For example, while discussing treatment for gum disease and the use of a miswak (chewing stick), she says “Apparently lots of studies have documents that they work better than a toothbrush for reducing plaque and bacteria in the mouth and for preventing gum disease.” Apparently, Lennihan never heard of footnotes or academic citation, either, because she doesn’t actually provide any information on these studies or who conducted them. Lennihan falls into the common trap that many holistic practitioners do: she believes so strongly in her position that she doesn’t recognize that facts she considers common knowledge aren’t common to the rest of us.

The [organic, grass-fed] red meat of this book, however, are the remedies themselves. Each condition offers a variety of treatments, both for immediate relief and for long term prevention. Most of the immediate relief treatments are very easy to put together or require no advanced preparation at all. And many of the long-term treatments couple the remedies with common-sense activities that compliment each other. Lennihan has a tendency to recommend the most obscure homeopathic ingredients, however, instead of the most common. This creates two problems for those new to natural healing.

First, the lack of supporting research from third party resources in the natural healing community can be intimidating. Some of Lennihan’s recommendations are based on a single book or website (or worse, unsubstantiated case-studies from individual colleagues in the whole health community). Some of these sources I am familiar with, some I am not, and some I avoid because they are alarmist and often encourage bad science in the name of whole health.

Second, the more obscure the ingredients, the more expensive they are and more difficult to obtain. It seems like most of these whole health books are written for affluent suburbanites with plenty of disposable income to spend on obscure treatment options. But for the average middle class person who wants to explore whole health options, Lennihan’s suggestions will be difficult to apply.

Unless you have a whole health store in your community, you’ll need to purchase most of these materials from online sources. Because so much of homeopathy is not regulated by any government agency and no strict rules apply to what actually qualifies as “natural,” quality, potency, and product safety of many of these ingredients can vary wildly from site to site. Lennihan does offer a wide array of suggested resources for obtaining various ingredients, but you’ll have to do a lot of research independently to determine which offer the best value and quality for your particular needs.

Finally, there is a strange rushed quality to the presentation. The index is sparse. The Notes, References, and Fine Print section doesn’t nearly cover all of the missing citation that should been presented to backed up Lennihan’s statements. Some sections of the book are long-winded while others are surprisingly abrupt.

As a starting point to get you moving in the right direction, Your Natural Medicine Cabinet is a good book. Readers can start with this, and then independently research the concepts in it to decide what would work for them. Read it with an open mind, but then employ some healthy skepticism to cut through the pseudo-science to decide what would work for you and what would not. But as a comprehensive guide to health, the book’s recommendations are often too obscure, too pricey, and too difficult to obtain to have consistent value.

Reviewer note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review.

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