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Show 1371: America’s Pharmacist Compares Natural Healing and Pharmaceuticals

Suzy Cohen, RPh, is known as America's Most Trusted Pharmacist. She often writes and speaks about the value of natural healing.
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America’s Pharmacist Compares Natural Healing and Pharmaceuticals

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This week, we talk with America’s Pharmacist, Suzy Cohen, about the effectiveness of medications and natural healing. Suzy has a multimedia presence in newspapers and on television. Millions of people trust her advice on over-the-counter and prescription medicines. She is also a strong advocate for natural approaches.

You may want to listen through your local public radio station or get the live stream at 7 am EDT on your computer or smart phone (wunc.org). Here is a link so you can find which stations carry our broadcast. If you can’t listen to the broadcast, you may wish to hear the podcast later. You can subscribe through your favorite podcast provider, download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of the page, or listen to the stream on this post starting on January 29, 2023.

Suzy Cohen’s Experience as a Pharmacist:

Suzy Cohen has more than 30 years of clinical experience in retail, hospital, and long-term care pharmacies. She has been called “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist®.” You might imagine with a background like that she would be a proponent of modern pharmaceuticals and look askance at ancient remedies. However, you’d be mistaken. Many useful drugs, such as statins to lower stubbornly high cholesterol levels, can have negative impacts on nutrients we need. Suzy calls these “drug muggers.” The solution is to take supplements to replenish our nutritional status. For example, people on statins may need to take Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, for short).

Why Experience Matters:

Since the mid-20th century, we’ve seen the development of numerous synthetic pharmaceuticals. Ideally, double-blind controlled trials (RCTs) establish their value. However, recent research also supports the value of many traditional remedies such as botanical medicines. One example would be hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Consumed as a tea, this lovely flower can help lower blood pressure. Traditionally, it has also been used to treat coughs, fevers, inflammation and infection (Pharmaceuticals, April 12, 2022).

Getting Personal:

One reason that Suzy Cohen started to become more cautious about pharmaceuticals was her husband’s experience. Before she met him, he had taken a fluoroquinolone antibiotic for a long period of time. Back then, doctors and pharmacists were much less aware of the potential damage drugs like Cipro or Levaquin might do. With such a lengthy exposure, Suzy’s husband suffered a lot of side effects, and it took a great deal of time and effort for him to recover from the harm. Suzy Cohen offers listeners important questions to ask if they are prescribed an antibiotic. Sometimes such a drug is essential and lifesaving. In other instances, there may be alternative treatments that can relieve symptoms with less risk.

Effectiveness of Pharmaceuticals:

Americans are predisposed to think of the fancy, pricey pills from the pharmacy as extremely effective. After all, the FDA approved them, right? We discuss how a medicine like oral phenylephrine could still be available in OTC cold medicines, although researchers have shown for 50 years that it is not effective as a decongestant. Suzy Cohen points out that, in contrast, topical phenylephrine in nose spray or eye drops is effective–but shouldn’t be used for more than three days. Otherwise, the patient risks rebound congestion, or in the case of the eyes, redness.

Drugs that May Be Hard to Stop:

Decongestant nose spray is not the only medicine that can sometimes be hard to discontinue. Heartburn medicines like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may trigger heartburn when you stop taking them, and benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) are notorious for being difficult to discontinue. Not only might patients suffer severe rebound anxiety, they might have seizures or even die (JAMA Network Open, Dec.1, 2023).

Natural Healing for Anxiety and Stress:

We asked Suzy Cohen how to cope with the difficulties of living in our high-stress world. One recommendation she offers is occasional use of Ashwagandha. This herb has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional healing practice of India. It can be very helpful for those who have trouble winding down so they can get the sleep they need for good health. Suzy Cohen offers listeners advice on how to approach supplements for natural healing as well as pharmaceuticals.

This Week’s Guest:

Suzy Cohen, RPh, brings over 30 years of clinical experience in retail, hospital, and long-term care pharmacy to her role as “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist®.” Her syndicated column, “Dear Pharmacist,” reaches millions of readers nationwide, and she is the author of several acclaimed books, including “Drug Muggers” and “Thyroid Healthy.” Suzy’s journey, which began with her recovery from hypothyroidism, led her to host “The Thyroid Summit” in 2014, develop specialized supplements, and author a book on the topic. Suzy is the 2023 recipient of a national “Patient Safety Award” shared by Nova Southeastern. Today, she holds five patents for her custom dietary supplements, available at her website, SuzyCohen.com, where you can explore her extensive archive of blogs and learn more about her holistic approach to medical issues.

Suzy Cohen, RPh, appreciates natural healing

Suzy Cohen, RPh, appreciates natural healing

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, January 29, 2024, after broadcast on Jan. 27. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.

Download the mp3.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Montalvo-González E et al, "Physiological effects and human health benefits of Hibiscus sabdariffa: A review of clinical trials." Pharmaceuticals, April 12, 2022. doi: 10.3390/ph15040464
  • Maust DT et al, "Benzodiazepine discontinuation and mortality among patients receiving long-term benzodiazepine therapy." JAMA Network Open, Dec.1, 2023. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.48557
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