Taking Herbs Safely

Herbs, From Mild to Powerful  Herbs can have a powerful effect on our bodies, tonifying and strengthening natural body functions and improving our health in ways we never thought possible.  I have used herbs all my life for a variety of purposes and have discovered that the action of herbs can range from mild and soothing such as a hot cup of chamomile tea for upset stomach to powerful and life-changing as turmeric root was for my chronic pain. 

Herbs & Prescription Meds  A healthy respect for herbs is important to ensure our physical well-being and safety.  Collectively, herbs contain a vast number of compounds, minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and active components.  The unique combinations of compounds and nutrients in herbs are responsible for their action.  For example, some herbs may have a sedative effect, others may thin or thicken the blood or lower blood glucose, and still others may raise or lower blood pressure.  Their effect on us can depend on our physical condition as well as the dose.  Combining herbs with prescription medications or OTC drugs may compound the effects of those medicines or reduce their effectiveness. The number of possible combinations of herbs and medications are endless and sometime it is impossible to know how they will interact. 

Safety First  The first rule of thumb when taking herbs is to check with your health care practitioner if you also take prescription medications.  I have been surprised at how receptive many physicians are to the use of herbs in conjunction with or as an alternative to prescription medications.  I told my doctor about an Ayurvedic herb that I take for hot flashes and she said, “If it works, keep taking it!”  When you do take herbs, in most cases, it is best to take them with food and water to prevent upset stomach, especially when trying a new herb.  Always start with a test dose of one capsule to check for a potential allergic reaction or unexpected effects.  If you notice any negative effects, stop taking the herb immediately.  If you are unsure whether the herb or some other factor was responsible, you may want to try another small dose at a later time, but you should never put your health and well-being at risk.  Clearly, in the rare case that you are allergic to an herb, it is not advisable to take it again.  I have used a couple dozen herbs over the years, and like most people, I have had no problems.  There’s a good chance you won’t either, but it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Internet Research  Before I try a new herb, I always research the side-effects and interactions before I take it.   Examples of websites I sometimes refer to for information are www.webmd.com and https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed.  Another site I find useful is http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/.  I prefer websites that document their sources in footnotes so that I can look up the articles and verify information.

Please note that the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements.  The information provided on this website and the products offered are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

0 Comments | Leave a Comment