Are Natural/Organic Products Really Any Better?

Are natural/organic/homemade/any-other-term-you-can-think-of-products any better for us? Do they work?

I met a guy who for multiple reasons, including living in a very rural place and being poor, doesn’t get to the doctor much. He is also rarely able to make it to a drugstore or Walmart or anywhere else that sells basic medicines and hygiene products. He’s pretty old school, and makes his own soaps from whatever you make soap from…lard/oils/scents? He treats a lot of common colds and other mild illnesses with plants he harvests. I’m not sure what he’d do if he got cancer or something, but so far he hasn’t had to deal with that. He’s not strongly anti-modern products, but he just prefers to rely on his own knowledge and abilities to keep himself…clean and healthy, haha.

What are peoples’ thoughts on this? I know very little about science or medicine, so I’m genuinely just curious what those who are more knowledgable than me think. When I look at the ingredient list to my bodywash from Target, it’s got about 50 different chemicals in it. I’m assuming some animal fat and beeswax oil would be “better,” right? I know a woman who makes her own lotion for her kid’s eczema. It seems to work and it has a third of the ingredients as the store bought stuff. I saw something once from the CDC (not making this political) that said about a third of antibiotic use is unnecessary, and can be harmful. (Again, I know nothing about this stuff.) Would it be better to skip the prescription when you’re feeling rundown and just drink some OJ and your grandma’s herbal tea?

I don’t lean strongly towards either side. I’m greatful for the level of healthcare I’m able to live with in 2022, but also feel like it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on the amount of chemicals we put into our bodies. I also am aware that homemade soap and DIY healthcare are two different things, but they still seem somewhat related. If anyone with any education or work experience in the medical field has any opinons, or if there’s anyone who also does any of this stuff on their own (for some reason I feel like @ChickenLittle might have some experience with this…she seems prepared for the apocalypse), I’d love to have you chime in. I’m not really looking to make a lifestyle change or go back to the 1800s, it’s just a topic that interests me.

If anyone wants to bring up food as well, that’s cool too. Free range, grassfed meat and “organic” (because that can mean different things) fruits and veggies…worth it or no?

I used to be firmly against homeopathic/“traditional” (for lack of a better term) medicines and thought organic products were a waste of time. Doing more research though, many of these plant based remedies have been used for many years. For example, the comfrey plant has been used to make pain relieving salves for centuries ( Comfrey: Its History, Uses & Benefits - Permaculture). I aslo read alot of personal anecdotes that comfrey salves have greatly helped those with arthritis and other painful ailments. I am going to grow some next year and give it a shot.

Also, there seems to be an ever-growing body of research showing that many of the commercial chemicals used in hygiene products lead to increased estrogen production.

I think there needs to be more of a combination in modern medicine of some of these more traditional practices mixed with modern science. I don’t think a synthesized pill is the best solution for all problems.


John Meadows got me turned onto this direction, and it’s been one of the most positive things I’ve ever done for myself.

It’s worth appreciating that, as a meathead, we put a LOT of food through our bodies. There’s also a fair chance that it’s a diet lacking in variety to some degree. Knowing that, I find it’s worth investing in animals that were fed their natural diet and treated well, plants that aren’t exposed to a lot of different chemicals, etc. “The poison is the dosage”, and it can accumulate pretty big in short order if you just keep mainlining it through your body.

I heard a good quote a while back regarding making good nutritional choices that basically boiled down to “There is no food that can undo the damage that all food causes”. Which is to say, the sheer act of eating and digesting ANY food causes harm in some capacity. The day we’re born, we’re in the process of dying, and everything we do contributes to that end: best we can do is try to pro-long the process to the greatest extent possible. So yeah: you can find fault in ANY food. EVERYTHING causes some malady, but some measures can be taken to reduce the extent of it.

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This should become the meathead version of the All-Father. Since all gains stem from the All-Food we must pay it the biggest respects.

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You write “comfrey slaves” and wanna talk typos?! Haha.


I actually think we should create an All-Food god as sort of a mascot for T-Nation forum meatheads.
Could be fun.

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I am honored.

Whew! There is a lot to unpack here and I will get back to you when I get home this evening.

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I’m interested in the treatment, or avoidance, of ailments and illnesses, and especially non-Western medicine approaches to it. I do have a PhD in Chemistry and am a professor, which means I have the ability to read and interpret scientific studies but I am not trained in nutrition or medicine. I am often skeptical of the advice of medical doctors, because they are trained to treat a symptom and move you along. If something hurts, we are quick to prescribe an opioid or cortisone shot for acute relief. If we end up with chronic problems due to lifestyle choices, we are quick to prescribe pills to counter-act that.

Since antiquity (my username), other cultures have studied the use of medicinal plants (I’m a big proponent of medicinal mushrooms), acupuncture, meditation, and other approaches that are not part of Western medicine or health. Even psychedelics have shown to be immensely useful for certain mental and physical ailments prior to the government shutting down research in the 60’s. In America, though, we have pursued treatments that lead to patents, pharmaceutical sales, and, if you’re a skeptic, predictable refills of prescriptions. A major philosophical difference is treating the human body to thrive and avoid illness, rather than to mask ailments and off-set our self-induced problematic lifestyles.

Even our country’s drug of choice, alcohol, is far more toxic than marijuana, psychedelics, or other drugs that are only recently becoming available legally. But, with a multi-billion dollar alcohol industry in place you can bet they will fight tooth and nail to stay mainstream and minimize any studies that show its damage on individuals and society. Michael Pollan has tried to bring some of this to the general public’s attention, with his book “How to Change Your Mind” and accompanying Netflix 4-part series.

All that said, it can be very confusing. Let’s say you do research on Cordyceps, a medicinal mushroom that has compelling studies that show its effects on, among other things, endurance and anti-cancer activities. Or Lion’s Mane, which contain bioactives that promote nerve growth and off-set cognitive decline in both human and rat studies. You go to the store and buy some. But, our supplement industry is unregulated, and you really don’t know the quality of the product or validity of the claims on the bottle. You need to do real research to get quality products that have real third party certificate of analyses to know you’re really getting a product that has the desirable bioactives. These products exist, but they aren’t sold at Whole Foods or other “health food” stores.

Well, I need to get to work here so I’ll shut up.


@TC_Luoma I beleieve you wrote an article about this a few years ago?

Wow, really pleased with what’s already here. I’ll check back in later to reply to people.

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Doctors treat symptoms, very rarely root causes. For anything acute you should really hit up a doctor, for other stuff you should really try your best to be an advocate for your own health. So many people take a tablet because they’ve got something wrong with them that could be improved with lifestyle or diet changes, then they need another tablet to help manage a couple of the bad side effects, and then another because that makes you constipated, and another because they interact with eachother so this mitigates that, and then you need to up your dose of the original tablet because it’s stopped working etc etc.

I wouldn’t tell anyone not to see a doctor but modern medicine for all its wonderful accomplishments often stops people from becoming accountable for their own health. People are more likely to get addicted to painkillers for lower back pain than starting an exercise regimen.

That is not to say natural/organic products are better than others, but some things might be better for you. A year ago I learned that eating regular-sized portions of broccoli was contributing massively to me having diarrhea - they apparently contain fructans similar to onions and garlic which I also can’t have too much of. I was listening to podcast ages ago with somebody saying they’d eat avocado twice a week and as soon as they cut it out their psoriasis completely disappeared.

Don’t get too caught up in the “this is good for you, that is bad for you” noise. Just try to eat based on how you’ll feel after rather than how you feel before.

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I agree!

Grow comfrey, eat mushrooms and break out the weed? This is turning out cool.

I expected “organic is a word corporations made up…”




Is it better? Probably. But it’s not always practical.

I say if your friend is doing okay, it’s working.

To make soap you basically need lard/fat, lye and water. When you cook it, it goes through a process called saponification. That’s what turns it into soap.
(Funny thing is… vegetable oil is made by the same process.)
Soap making is time consuming, and the results can vary. It is definitely easier to just go buy some soap. In my opinion it is better to use chemical soap than no soap at all. Say if you don’t have time to go kill and dress an animal, render the lard and cook the soap.

My mom used to make lotion bars from deer tallow. There is nothing on the market that works as well for dry, cracked feet and hands. Best thing ever.

As far as the medicinal plants…plants are powerful! Easy examples are weed, cociane, heroin, coffee, etc…
Garlic and echinacea are two popular natural remedies to fight infections. Are they as effective as antibiotics? No. Sometimes you need a doctor. But if you are in an “oh shit” situation it does help.

Silver helps. I learned this when my son had a toothache and was allergic to both antibiotics that were prescribed.
My dad used to go pick some weeds he called horsemint if you had diarrhea. Steeped a tea with it. That shit was NASTY, but… it worked!
Clove oil is still one of the best things for numbing a toothache. So, plants definitely have a place for common minor illnesses. They may even treat more advanced illness if taken long enough.

As far as organic food goes… I am not on board with it. You will get more nutrition out of two non organic oranges than one organic orange. I do however believe that it is better to grow your food if you are able. That is the only way you will ever really know what you are eating. My mom and I have said for years… we don’t know what we are eating.

I think @QuadQueen is a good person to bring in on this discussion.

Exactly! This is what made me wonder - it worked (at least to an extent) for people before, right? Maybe it doesn’t work for all people or all illnesses, but at least sometimes would be cool, if it means you may have a “healthier” option. For what it’s worth, the man I mentioned in the OP is Native (Lakota), and uses the same plants and methods that have been used for a long time in our area.

That comfrey stuff is interesting. My dad broke his heel really badly a couple years back, and has some pretty bad pain due to it. He gets a cortisone shot every 3-4 months, but is always interested in other options. He was told he’ll most likely develop arthritis in that area so if comfrey could possibly help, that’d be cool. If/when you grow it, are you intending on using it on yourself? Do you have any chronic pain? I’ll be very interested to see how it goes for you.

I think this is what I’ve always heard. I have an uncle who has sworn off all hygiene products. He just showers by scrubbing with water and just brushes his teeth with water. I don’t think he wears deodorant. I honestly have never felt like he smells bad, which is weird. Maybe the body adjusts after a period of time and that stuff could become “enough” to keep you clean? I don’t think I’ll ever try it. He’s a weird dude too, haha. The type who gets really into certain things, like this, but then still does other unhealthy stuff.

That’s pleasant, haha. But very true. I’ve begun making small changes here and there - I buy eggs from a local farmer and use vegetables from family members’ gardens. Maybe it’s just a placebo but I genuinely think they taste better. Especially the eggs. And my mom has always sworn that homegrown tomatos are better than anything from the store. I don’t eat enough of those to notice but I suppose the knowledge that they likely weren’t doused in chemicals their entire life is enough to make them taste better.

You’re exactly one of the two types of people I wanted to be able to hear from. Thanks for chiming in.

I’m very interested in how all that “Eastern stuff” works. For a while I was considering going into a acupuncture/massage type of route as a career because I wanted to take a different approach to healing. Not my goal anymore but I’m still interested in it. The possibilities of psychedelics being useful is neat too. There’s a Netflix show, I think it’s called Have a Good Trip or something about that topic. Nick Offerman and the guy who played Ben on Parks and Rec made it. Might interest you.

Any good sources you recommend?

Weird! But cool that you figured that out. I think @T3hPwnisher has experienced issues with, blueberries? (Correct me if I’m wrong.) And I think I’ve heard that people with genuine thyroid issues should avoid things like broccoli and cauliflower. It’s interesting how we can have very different reactions to seemingly “simple,” single-ingredient foods that you would assume are good for us.

True. I was talking with a woman last night who was selling honey made from bees she keeps on her farm. To really do a lot of this stuff - make your own soaps, garden enough to feed a family, hunt, or raise animals, you’re going to spend a lot more time (and maybe just as much money) as you would just grabbing something from the store. Definitely a question of whether it’s worth it to you or not.

I’ve never heard of deer tallow lotion. I’ll have to check that out. My hands get bad in the winter. We get so dry up here.

Thanks for the mentions of those plants…that’s the sort of thing that I wanted to hear personal anecdotes about.

For you, does this just mean fruits/veggies? What about all those fancy titles you can apply to things like meat and eggs, like free range, grass fed, etc.? Do you believe they are better than the alternative or is it a no there as well?

@QuadQueen - feel free to come share any thoughts you may have. I’m trying to think of other posters who may have something to say…I can’t think of any people who are in the medical field right now.

@cyclonengineer - I’ll mention this story because I think I had mentioned some Native spirituality stuff to you and @The_Myth a while back.

The guy I mentioned in my OP is Native and practices certain ceremonies, including the sweat lodge. His sister called him and said she’d just been to the doctor and was told she had some lumps in her breast that they suspected were cancer. She told her doctor she wanted a second opinion, and went to her brother. He told her to come over and they went into the lodge. They were going through that ceremony and he handed her a bucket of water. The floor of the lodge is dirt, so he told her to make some mud and rub it on her breast. (It’s pitch black inside the lodge.) He was singing and praying, and later told her to rinse the mud off and “give whatever was in her body back to the earth” or something along those lines. She did, they finished up, and went about their day. She went back to the doctor a couple of weeks later, and he was shocked to tell her that after a second scan, whatever they’d been seeing before was now completely gone. She called her brother to say he healed her, and he said no, “He did.” When he was telling me this story he gestured up towards the sky.

That’s it. Just thought it was a cool story. We’ve talked about religion and stuff before so I thought I’d share, since it sort of lines up with the natural healing stuff.

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I hate to be the chemist, but this is not true. Saponification is the basic hydrolysis of a triglyceride, as you imply. This cleaves the triglyceride and gives the water soluble carboxylate and the long alkyl chain, which is soap. Vegetable oil is not made this way, rather it is extracted from plant materials. It remains in its triglyceride form.

This is misleading. Marijuana and coffee are whole plant components, with a myriad of compounds such as terpenes, cannabinoids, phenols, caffeine (of course, I’m combining some of the compounds found in coffee or weed). Heroine is an opioid that is made from building blocks extracted from plants, but is not a plant. Cocaine is a single compound that is isolated from plants, but to label it a plant is misleading and also plants make tons of dangerous and poisonous compounds. Even compounds that may have benefit when consumed with other naturally occurring plant materials often can be dangerous when consumed alone (caffeine) or far less effective (anti-oxidants).

Yes. For mushroom extracts the best sources I know of are: Oriveda and Vibe. I like the latter because I buy bulk powder and that allows me to adjust doses and combinations of extracts. It’s also more cost effective. Other solid options include Real Mushrooms and Fresh Cap. Avoid Host Defense and Om, which are mostly biomass (despite Host Defense being a Paul Stamet company, who is a great advocate for mushrooms.) and sold on health food store shelves. You can really go down a rabbit hole with bioactives, extraction method, dosing schedules, but I’ll leave it at that.

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Not on board with that either.
This doesn’t really look like free range to me.

Now, if you have a bunch of chickens running around in the yard scratching up bugs and poop that’s different. But, to buy “free range” eggs for more money? Nope!

Same goes with grass fed beef. Most are raised on pasture yes, they are also fed cattle feed, but taken to the feed lots before slaughter. If you don’t raise it, it’s not worth the extra cost. I have friends that haul cattle, I have heard things… lol

If you go out and shoot a wild animal, deer, elk, hog, that’s a different story.

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Yup. I’ve brought them back AGAIN because I’m stupid, and so far limited quantities seem ok, but I believe I have an intolerance to salicylates.

Organic fruits and vegetables are going to keep getting better and better.

Right now it can be expensive to get enough organic material to fertilize a whole field. In the West, we’re trying to use rock dust, fish guts and compost, and there just isn’t enough of that shit available. So it’s cost prohibitive to get awesome results on a large scale.

But Asian science dudes have collected old agricultural techniques from around the non-Western world. These JADAM bros can teach US farmers to make huge amounts effective fertilizers from expired milk and fermented comfrey, which are plentiful. Or sea salt and old leaves.

It’s going to be cool.

That guy is pretty brilliant in his own way.

I go into hobbyist mushroom hunting like “Yum. These things are good.”

And he’s like “If I modify this type of fungus ants will carry it back to the colony and wipe themselves out.” .