Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.
A lot of alties like to defend their magic cures and suppliments as "natural." Of course, that has no bearing on its safety. Nature's kitchen doubles as a meth lab. Don't get me wrong: Nature produces a lot of wonderful stuff. But that doesn't mean it's safe to stick just anything into your mouth. Nature keeps a lot of nasty stuff under the sink.
Apple seeds and peach pits, for example, contain amygdalin, which can turn into hydrogen cyanide in the human stomach. I recall an anecdote from long ago where some police officers thought some parents were poisoning their kid. After the investigation, they found out the kid had a habit of cracking open and eating peach pits.
Many animals naturally produce toxins as a way of life. Some of these toxins are incredibly powerful. Just think about all the poisonous snakes, spiders, jellyfish, and so forth. It would not surprise me if there's some unnamed invertibrate in some dark corner at the bottom of the ocean capable of producing a toxin so powerful, a single molecule will make your brain boil out your ears. I don't want to know what'll happen if you're allergic.
Hopefully, I've established that natural does not equal benign. Now, onto another angle: Some woos seem to think that natural products are inherently superior to artificial counterparts. In some cases, such as natural vanilla extract versus artificially produced vanilla flavor, it's a matter of opinion. Some people with talented taste buds can tell the difference between them in blind taste tests, but that's probably explainable because the natural extracts contain traces of not-vanilla-flavor impurities.
Nature tends to be messy in her kitchen: Some of the chemicals we find useful are often coupled with nasty ones. Cinchona bark, which contains a chemical useful for treating malaria also contains a lot of other chemicals, like quinidine, a cardiac depressant. Sometimes an herb doesn't contain the active ingredient we're looking for, due to growing conditions. That's why medical science is usually so interested in isolating individual chemicals and then manufacturing them: Herbs and such are chemical cocktails, and medicine often requires precision measurements to get the desired effect. Herbal suppliments, being largely unregulated and filled with inherent unreliability, can vary in their active ingredient so much that a bottle might not even contain what the label says it does. With real medicine, you usually know exactly what you're getting.
One of the more absurd assertions I've encountered online discussed an alleged difference between identical "natural" and "artificial" chemicals: Humans "force" the chemical bonds which sets them at unnatural angles. The last time I checked, human beings hadn't developed a way of altering the laws of quantum mechanics, but that is a topic for a different post.