There is no simple answer to this question. It depends on the individual’s health situation, if the drugs are necessary, and how much personal health work is willing to be performed.
Let me briefly list the main pharmaceutical-load categories, as they apply to this issue. The following is a generalization. There are exceptions.
- The individual who needs the pharmaceutical/s to live, i.e. type-1 diabetic, anti-rejection medication, chemotherapy, etc. There is no herbal replacement for very profound conventional treatments.
Bringing in herbal medicine to address a non-serious secondary issue (sore throat, indigestion, anxiety, etc.) should be OK…but it may be tricky due the body’s already highly-manipulated state. Relatedly, many times, these lesser secondary issues are a drug side effect.
As far as constitutional herbal medicine goes, this individual is often beyond its reach. Through the herbal practitioner’s lens, it’s difficult to separate a constitutional tendency from a pharmaceutical influence. Remember, herbs are not drugs. Comparatively, their influence is subtle. The difference is between a sledgehammer (drug) and finishing hammer (herb). Also, what occurs after adding another set of chemicals (herbal) to a complicated pharmacological internal state is anyone’s guess.
- The individual who is highly medicated but the drugs are not essential (many seniors fall into this category). One pharmaceutical leads to another, and so on. Much of the first category applies here. The difference however is many of the drugs can be eliminated, very slowly. This takes willingness (most important) on the part of the client, patience, and health work (diet/exercise/lifestyle/etc.). Once the physical ‘slate’ has been de-cluttered, herbal medicine has a good chance of making a positive difference.
- The individual who is taking just one to two pharmaceutics for non-life-threatening health complaints. Mild to moderate GERD, anxiety, sleeplessness, joint inflammation, and list goes on. Herbs probably could have been employed from the start, but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen. The simplest cases are a this-for-that switch. But sometimes there needs to be a slow tapering of the pharmaceutical while the herb is incrementally increased.
- The person who is pharmaceutical free is the ideal candidate for herbal medicine. Unfortunately, these people are rare.
In summation, the longer, more of, and profound an individual’s pharmaceutical use is, the less positive influence herbal medicine will have.
*I am not advocating for the discontinuation of anyone’s pharmaceutical use without a doctor’s consent.*