Growing up Adventist, I heard on more than one occasion that Ellen White, one of our church’s founders, called medication a poison.  In 1908, she referred to “drugs that poison the blood and endanger life.” (White, 1908)  “Drug medication, as it is generally practiced, is a curse.”  (White, 1893)  Some people I have heard quote these types of statements, apply this to the medication of today.  However, let’s look for a moment at what people called medication in Ellen White’s day.

The Adventist Church was officially formed in 1863, and Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States from 1861-1865.  Lincoln used “blue mass” pills to treat his headaches and melancholia.  While President, he realized these caused him to have a lot of anger (he actually physically assaulted a man), which eventually caused him to stop taking them.  He was suffering from mercury poisoning!  The recipe for these pills includes 40 times what we now consider to be a safe limit of mercury.  We know today exposure to metals can cause many illnesses including mood disorders.  (University of Chicago Medical Center, 2001)

It is common knowledge that Coca Cola contained cocaine and was marketed as a medicine.  The cocaine was gradually lowered and entirely removed in 1929.  (Coca Cola, 2020)  Cocaine was also used for teething babies–as was mercury and alcohol.   Bayer produced a product with heroin in it until 1913.  Starting in the 1840s, chloroform was used as an anesthetic, but was also thought to greatly help asthma.  Of course, tobacco was marketed as a great help for lung problems including asthma.  (Writers, 2019)

“The present cannot be judged by the past.” (White, 1864)

The medication of today is different and should not be judged by the past.  Science, created by God, has given us much more information so as not to harm our patients with medicine.  An article from Loma Linda University states, “As compared with 100 or even 50 years ago, today’s drug medications are being prescribed with great discretion and health-promoting, life-prolonging effect.  In a five-year study of 26,000 acutely ill hospitalized patients in seven countries, it was found that only 24 patients died of drug-related causes. Further, the treatment of these 24 patients (most of whom were severely or terminally ill with cancer, heart failure, or chronic alcoholism) represented a ‘last ditch life-saving effort, and death, when it came, was not altogether unexpected.’ Only three of these deaths were due to an unlooked-for ‘catastrophic outcome from drug administration.'”  (Schaefer & Johnson, 2012)

Natural remedies should stand beside medicine.

While almost all prescribers would prefer natural remedies whenever possible, the fact is we do have good medications now which prolong life and improve quality of life as well.  Much research, particularly in the area of mental health, shows lifestyle change along with medication give the best results.  In fact, in many cases in all areas of health, lifestyle change can make the use of medications temporary or boost the positive effects of the medication even when needed long-term.

A friend told me of a health dilemma he was experiencing.  He had high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and he wanted very much to deal with it naturally.  He changed his diet.  He exercised.  He drank water.  He even lost some weight.  Nothing he did helped.  He told me what medication his doctor prescribed and said he was worried about the effect the medication would have on his kidneys.  I was aware he has a strong family history of hypertension and encouraged him to take the medication.  He had been diligent and had not gained the results he needed to be healthy.  I encouraged him to keep doing healthy activities because likely they were preventing his blood pressure from being higher, but I also warned him that not taking the medication and letting his blood pressure remain high would be devastating to his kidneys as well as his blood vessels and his heart valves.  While the medication would undoubtedly have a minor negative effect, the hypertension would eventually kill him if left untreated.

God Created Science

During the creation week, God created all of the science we have today.  It has taken us millennia to discover many of the medical wonders we now have which he created.  Ellen White was in favor of us using all means available for health needs.  She “herself used tea as a medicine (though not as a beverage).  She recognized that blood transfusions could save life.  She had radiation therapy–23 x-ray treatments at Loma Linda for a skin problem.  She was vaccinated for smallpox and urged her helpers to be vaccinated also.  She once advised a missionary to Australia that if quinine was the best thing available to fight malaria, it should be used.  When the missionary asked, ‘Would I have sinned to give the boy quinine when I knew of no other way to check malaria and when the prospect was that he would die without it?’ she replied, ‘No, we are expected to do the best we can.'”  (Schaefer & Johnson, 2012)

Ellen White’s advice, taken as a whole not a sentence here or there, is very practical.  God also seems very practical to me, and I believe He expects us to avail ourselves of the scientific knowledge He has provided.


Coca-Cola. (2020, August 19). Retrieved August 30, 2020, from

University of Chicago Medical Center. (2001, July 19). Lincoln’s Little Blue Pills. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from

Schaefer, R. A., & Johnson, B. R. (2012). Legacy: Daring to care. Loma Linda, CA: Loma Linda University.

White, E. G. (1864). An Appeal to Mothers. Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association.

White, E. G. (1893, January 30). General Conference Daily Bulletin.

White, E. G. (1908). Manuscripts (Vol. 73).

Writers, S. (2019, August 15). 10 Dangerous Drugs Once Marketed as Medicine. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from