As I’ve written many times before, the growing popularity of alternative medicine concerns me because I think most people who use these alternatives reject modern medicine and the many life-saving treatments doctors proscribe. The acceptance of alt medicine often goes hand in hand the complete rejection of modern medicine (see this horrifying case as an example), the anti-vaccination movement, belief in “essential oils” as treatments for serious diseases, and other ludicrous theories on health and healing.

Yet, I’m also concerned about knee jerk alarmism about some alternative remedies. I think too often, people who defend science and traditional medicine can be dismissive of treatments that can augment (not preplace) pharmaceuticals and more traditional treatments.

For instance, consider recent reaction to an herbal supplement Kratom, which is marketed as a pain reliever. Typically it’s used by people who want relief from pain but who don’t want to use narcotics or traditional pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil. I have no idea if this stuff works but I do know that the placebo effect—where those given sugar pills are told they’re getting an active medication and report feeling better—is real and gives some people the psychological reaction that they’re pain is subsiding. The mind is extremely powerful so I see no harm in people believing an herbal remedy has helped.

Of course, alarmists are freaking out because this herbal medication can be found in small-sized drinks (similar to 5-Hour Energy drinks) at convenience stores and is marketed as a “feel good” shot, which, according to some that have complained about the product, could attract young children. 

This is where the alarmists lose me. I simply don’t understand why people don’t see it as a parent’s responsibility to keep their kids from drinking things that aren’t good for them instead of the 16-year old dude behind the counter at the drug store. There are many things sold at the convenience store I’d rather my kids not consume. Candy and soda and high-fat snacks, cigarettes, wine, beer, Lysol, bleach, Slurpee’s, Maxim magazine. But you know what? I know it’s my job to tell them “hands off!” not the guy making seven bucks an hour behind the counter.

Naturally, certain state legislatures think I’m an idiot who can’t control my kids, so there’s a movement afoot to ban these herbal supplements.

At some point, it sure would be nice if elected officials would remember what they’re elected to do: Keep criminals off the street, be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and leave adults and parents the hell alone to make decisions for themselves and their families.