Alternative Health and Herbal Articles by Various Authors.

Consumer Power and
The Healthcare Industry

By Stephanie Burgess      tephyr@taconic.net

Copyright 1998, The Garden

The Garden Web Site

(For educational information only. No parts of this document are to be taken as diagnosis or prescription for any illness. See your Healthcare Practitioner for any personal health concerns)

Around eight years ago or so, when I was running a local food cooperative,  I went to Northeast Cooperatives Annual Fair. I have long forgotten the Key Note speaker's name, but still remember the point to his lecture: That each time we go to the market and make a purchase we are in effect voting for that product and the industry behind it. I immediately came home and wrote an article for the Cooperative?s newsletter, but this idea has stuck with me over the years and it is something that is equally if not actually more important now and something we should all consider before we purchase anything. Is this product, this packaging, this manufacturing process something we want to see more of in the future so much that we are willing to "vote" for it?? Not just food: anything. Including in the Healthcare department.

No one can deny that the Healthcare industry is booming. Just open any magazine and check out the ads. Big bucks are being spent. They definitely want you to purchase their products; to give them your money; for you to vote for their companies and products. That is why it is important for you to become informed about the product and the people behind it. When you vote for a product you should be voting for your and the Earth?s health, the company should be not only concerned with profit but whether or not their product is benefiting you and everyone else.

The number of glossy ads for health products is astounding and now we are getting television ads for not only the "traditional" over the counter products but for alternative products as well. This is good in the sense it shows that consumers are taking charge of their own healthcare and the industry is responding to give them the products they need. But the old adage: Consumer Beware, is still applicable.

Whether you are purchasing nutritional supplements or herbal products ask yourself these questions before you make a purchase:

  • Do you really need this product or are you falling for advertising hype?
  • Have you researched this product or asked someone in the healthcare field their opinion?
  • Do you really know what it is you are buying and is it specific to your individual need.
  • Are the ingredients made up of the latest healthcare fad with interest in high profit margins only or is the formulation and contents specific for a problem? Is it made with ingredients that are easily available or exotics?
  • Was it formulated by educated informed professionals or quickly put together to get on the shelves?

Care in manufacturing is not only an issue for the individual consumer. It concerns both the health of the public as well as the Earth. This is a co-dependent circle: if the earth is unhealthy we are too: if we are unhealthy the Earth is. Ask yourself these questions too:

  • How was this product manufactured?
  •  
    • Was care given to the quality of its ingredients at all stages of manufacturing?
    • Is the manufacturing process environmentally safe?
    • What are the origins of its ingredients?
    •  
      • Synthetic?
      • Chemically grown?
      • Organically grown?
      • Has it been irradiated?
    • Were the people employed all through the process treated in a fair and humanitarian way?
  • Are the ingredients made from readily available resources, ensuring future availability or is the company using endangered or difficult to obtain ingredients thinking only of immediate profit?
  • If you feel the need to use exotics or plants that are endangered is your need really equal to the Earth?s need or the possible needs of future generations.

It is more than possible that many herbs will be harvested out of existence in the next few decades; herbs like Goldenseal and American Ginseng are being harvested out of existence in the wild and farming is barely able to keep up with the demand. Just check out the prices; the reason they are so expensive is because they are becoming rare. Many exotic "Fad" herbs that can not be grown commercially fast enough for consumer consumption are being harvested from the wild all around the world at a rate faster than Nature can produce. It is time to stop using these herbs for "casual" use. Weigh your immediate need versus the more possibly serious future needs. For example if you use Goldenseal for a common cold or flu today; tomorrow a child might not have it to fight strep throat or something worse; why not use Oregon Grape Root? It?s constituents are similar and it is no way near extinct and is accessible through out the country. If you use Catsclaw for fear of getting circulation problems, what happens if in the future if your spouse needs it specifically? Why not try Hawthorne instead? Find out about an herb's availability before you purchase it and if it is rare or exotic find out what more common herbs or supplements will do the same or similar thing for you. These considerations will also bring down the cost.

We, the consumers, are possibly the most powerful group in this country: if not the world. What we want, what we demand in the market place will be fulfilled. It is up to us how and by whom that is done. Please, when shopping take as much care in voting for your products as you would for the leaders of this country. Our and the Earth?s future and health depend on it.

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