My mother is an LPN (one step down from RN... she quit nursing school 2 weeks before graduation because my little sister wasn't tolerating childcare.) She is a skilled healer, and she just as liable to use ibuprophin or benadryl as she is to whip out the echinacea and tea-tree oil. When working on us, she used herbs and suppliments as carefully and judiciously as she used the allopathic medications, and I grew up appreciating the value in both.
That being said, I have a low tolerance for that which has not been proven, medically, to work... or that which just seems waaaay out there. For instance, I don't believe that a radiating ball in a pool of water can tell me which essential oil I should purchase (through the guy doing the treatment, of course.) I don't believe in muscle testing, except as an exercize of the preconceptions and prejudices of the subconscious mind (in the cases where it really seems to work for some oddball reason). Maybe I'm intolerant, or maybe I just want to make sure I don't subscribe to quackery because my kids' health is more important to me than loyalty to a certain philosophy of healing and its hypothetical diagnoses and cures.
But then there are the in-between things, which I have struggled to keep myself open minded to. Here are my experiences there:
1) I was getting recurring ear infections, and after three courses of antibiotics, a health-nut friend of mine reccomended I try going off of milk, because a "milk allergy" is common in almost 100% of adults, and colds are often a result of irritability due to allergic reaction. I was at the end of my rope, so I tried it...
I have been ear infection free (and largely, milk-free) ever since.
2) Essential oils. I have personally benefited from essential oils: peppermint oil has often provided me relief during a nasty sinus infection or cold. It's a natural decongestant; I can say that it works because it has helped me sleep through the night.
3) The humidifier. My baby contracted RSV one week after he was born. We suffered through a month of intermittent Doctor visits. Each time we went, he was on the edge of needing help, oxygen wise. We started keeping the humidifier on him full blast at night, with an essential oil in it, and he breathed much easier while he slept. He also had a markedly rapid recovery after we started. He, a newborn, never had to be hospitalized.
4) Colloidal silver. All three of my kids (newborn included) had ear infections this last winter. I have heard so many things lately about how antibiotics ought to be saved for dire situations, so that there are more options to try to treat a serious illness if it ever comes, but if the body has adapted to these other drugs it's less likely to be effective. So I thought, before I picked up the prescription for antibiotics, I'd try a particular brand of colloidal silver for a day. My neighbors had raved over it to me, and I had read a few anecdotes that seemed genuine. So, I put it in the affected ears and let them take a nap. I am not making this up when I say that, in each case, the ear infections did not last 24 hours. They were completely gone, as far as I could tell, a few hours after the application of the colloidal silver. After this worked with my girls, my newborn got ear infections in both ears, and was obviously very uncomfortable. I took him to the dr to get a prescription just in case, and tried the colloidal silver, putting it in each ear and lying him on his side for 15 minutes each, after he settled down for the night. When he woke, he showed no signs of irritablity.
5) Cranberry pills. My daughter was complaining that it burned every time she urinated. Other symptoms lead me to believe she had a urinary tract or bladder infection. As she wasn't feverish, I thought before I took her in I'd try cranberry. I got capsules at the Heatlh food store. I opened them up and gave her half-doses straight, having her drink water afterward. her complaints dissappeared within a day.
5) Dietary change and probiotics: My toddler has had recurrent diahhrea ever since she got old enough to have grown-up bowel movements. I noticed that she'd be all right for a few days, then have a long spell of awful diapers and stomach pain, then she'd be all right again. I thought the most likely cause would be dietary. Because the usual culprit is too much sugar, I tried that first: didn't work. The next most likely was dairy: tried that with limited sucess. I took her to the dr, who is an osteopath and more friendly to natural remedies: He prescribed a powerful probiotic and instructed me to give her a half-dose with her food every day. He told me it was likely that all the diahhrea had removed important flora from her intestines, and that this would help get her back on track if I made sure we didn't aggrivate her problem by giving her the foods that had continued to make her sick.
For about a week, I gave her the probiotic on her peanut butter sandwiches. I watched the dairy carefully. She started having normal diapers after a week of treatment. One day we went to a friends' house and she had cheese, and some diahhrea occurred for a day or two, now she's back to normal bowel movements.
So, from one mother to another: Don't dismiss everything that your doctor doesn't tell you as quackery. If it's not going to hurt anything (for instance, silver suspended in water isn't something you can easily overdose on, and acidophilus in probiotics is found in the food we eat every day, and cranberry can't poison you no matter how much of it you eat or drink)— try it. It just might work.
But also be careful: herbs ARE medicines, and there are some that you can OD on and get very sick. Do your research, and ask for help from a knowledgeable practitioner along with your natural healing.