Don’t Get It Twisted: Herbs Are Drugs, Too

Isn’t weight loss or gain as simple as calories in and calories out? It’s attractive in its simplicity, yes, but so is cold fusion. Did you eat half an Oreo cookie? No problem. If you’re a 220-pound male, you just need to climb 27 flights of stairs to burn it off. It’s enough to make a lumberjack cry.
Confused and angry? You should be. As usual, the focus is on the least important piece of the puzzle, and that's frustrating as well as counter-productive. So, instead of focusing on calories-out as being exercise-dependent, throw out the rulebook and rethink how you're treating your body. In this space, every week, Tim Ferriss will take a look at the rules that change the rules when it comes to your health. We're kicking off the first installment today, with a lesson in drugs that might seem much more harmless than they are.
A Drug Is A Drug Is A Drug Calling something a “drug,” a “dietary supplement,” “over- the- counter,” or a “nutriceutical” is a legal distinction, not a biochemical one.
None of these labels mean that something is safe or effective. Legal herbs can kill you just as dead as illegal narcotics. Supplements, often unpatentable molecules and therefore unappealing for drug development, can decrease cholesterol from 222 to 147 in four weeks, as I have done, or they can be inert and do absolutely nothing.
Think “all- natural” is safer than synthetic? Split peas are all-natural, but so is arsenic. Human growth hormone (HGH) can be extracted from the brains of all-natural cadavers, but unfortunately it often brings Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with it, which is why HGH is now manufactured using recombinant DNA.
Besides whole foods, anything you put in your mouth or your bloodstream that has an effect — whether it’s a cream, injection, pill, or powder — is a drug. Treat them all as such. Don’t distract yourself with labels that are meaningless to us.

Tim Ferriss is author of the #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. He is one of Forbes Magazine’s “Names You Need to Know."

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