I’ve already defined as a drug, anything you swallow, inject, inhale or absorb through body tissue to modify some mental or physical function. (See Drug Therapy). Drugs work at the molecular level. Regardless of whether a drug has been synthesized in a factory or picked from a plant, it is made up of molecules. A pure drug contains all the same kind of molecule. Combination of drugs, often found in herbal preparations, are simply combinations of molecules that may or may not interact with each other.

Molecules interact with each other through chemical reactions. All body tissue is composed of molecules and a drug’s molecules do what they do by reacting with the body’s molecules. In a way, the body can be viewed as composed of a multitude of complexly organized molecules from which emerge cells, blood, bone and a myriad other substances, all animated by the mysterious force we call life. By affecting the body at the molecular level, drugs can among other things, shorten or prolong life, enhance function of some body system and even modify consciousness.

The above description of what drugs do at the most basic level holds true for modern and traditional systems of medicine. Whether from a pharmacist, naturopath or Ayurvedic healer, any explanation for the effect of a drug on health can be examined in terms of what a drug does on the molecular level. Unfortunately, even with all of our science and technology, the complexity of the body’s workings and its interactions with drugs remains incompletely understood. We are still busily researching this enormous subject.

Nevertheless, try keeping all of the above in mind when deciding on using a drug because it is a general description of how all drugs really work. Find out as much as you can from your health care professional, library or on-line resource about what the drug does on the most basic level. It is not that you need to understand all the chemical reactions between the drug and the body. You need to understand the extent to which such knowledge exists about a particular drug. The more that is known, the more reliably we can use the drug.

The point of this post is to get you to think differently about drugs by seeing them clearly for what they are in terms of how they work. The next step is to understand how we obtain knowledge about drugs in the first place and what makes some knowledge more reliable than others.

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