I do use natural remedies in tea form, but I agree that it's important to know the company marketing the herb and to tell one's doctor all medications one's taking, including herbs. A few years ago, my 70-something year old father started acting very bizarre, to the point that my siblings and I were worried about dementia. My youngest brother, who's a nurse, visited my dad's apartment and discovered that Dad had started taking herbal supplements without notifying his doctor. To make a long story short, one of the supplements was interacting with one of Dad's prescription meds and causing the strange behavior. Once that supplement was discontinued, Dad was back to normal. Moral of the story: tell your herbalist what prescriptions you take, and tell your doctor what herbal supplements you take.
Excellent article. Most herbal supplement users are unaware of possible drug interactions and side effects. There are population groups who should not use these supplements at all. A doctor's recommendation should be obtained for anyone on medication or with special health concerns. I do know that Registered Dieticians and Lactation Consultants often recommend Fenugreek (which will make you smell like maple syrup BTW) and Blessed Thistle to increase milk production.
6/14/2009 10:09:44 AM
All this warning about herbal meds!! 200 THOUSAND people die each year from drugs prescribed by doctors, under a doctors care, while only about 200 (NOT 200 thousand, just 200) die from herbal overdose!!
All medicine can be dangerous, even herbs. But they are still better for your body than the chemicals that are produced today. IMHO
I believe that God put herbs on earth for us to be able to doctor ourselves. He certainly didn't put pharmaceutical companies here. The FDA, doctors etc have tried for years to be able to regulate herbs which they can't do because it's a "natural plant" Europe regulates, I believe. Think of the money they'd, government and pharmaceutical companies, get if they could get a hold of herbs! Of coarse you'd still be able to buy it across the counter at the local store in Mexico.
I have fibromyalgia and suffer severe clinical depression. For these conditions, I take Effexor (187.5 mg) and Seroquel (12 5 mg). Part of the side effects of these drugs are weight gain. I supplement them with Chromium GTF and Mag-Citrate. The Chromium GTF for an appetite depressant (especially sweets) and Mag-Citrate for my muscles. They were recommended by my pharmacist who is fully aware of what prescription drugs I am taking. I have felt the best since I have been taking them that I have felt for a considerable length of time.
2/7/2009 4:44:17 PM
Great, well-balanced article. It is always important to understand herbs are indeed drugs (in their original form from Nature's pharmacy) and must be used with caution. Don't just believe what some marketer writes for the label - do your research and check with your doctor about possible interactions with any prescriptions you are taking.
My favorite herb is stinging nettles. Drinking a tea made from its leaves, and boosting my immune system with echinachea, gets me through the hay-fever season. I used to spend months in an antihistamine fog every summer ... I haven't taken them for six summers now!
Keep in mind that the drugs you can get prescribed by doctors were developed by drug companies, often after they researched "natural" remedies and figured out what their active ingredients were. However, to patent them and to make them commercially viable to produce, they often have to change them into something stronger or less safe, perhaps because they don't understand how in the natural form there are other aspects of the preparation that help buffer the harshness or bad effect of the remedy, and the developed drugs often have side effects that are worse than what they are treating.
Some chronic diseases are very easily treated by herbal remedies, and without the negative side effects of the pharmaceutical treatments; a good example is high blood pressure, which is quite easily treated herbally (and I'm not suggesting Red Yeast, which can be dangerous without good supervision). Using simple treatments of aged garlic, fish oil, DHA, EPA, vitamin C, Vitamin E (but only in the correct form: alpha-tocopherol succinate), CoQ10, and grapeseed extract has been effective for most of my friends I have recommended this to.
Supplements are unregulated by the government, but so what? (I mean, they really aren't doing a very good job of regulating anything, anyway.) So, how can you get good supplements? You need to rely on good suppliers, choosing suppliers that provide pharmaceutical-grade supplements that are standardized (that is, tested so that you the exact dosage in each tablet or pill), and provide high-quality products. For example, Echinacea (an herb commonly used as an anti-viral) must be of the correct variety, picked at the correct time of the year, pressed in the right way, stored in the right way, etc. to be effective.
A very well written article and interesting comments. I think that as individuals we need to be careful what we use to help us to be healthier. Everything is a balance between risks and benefits. This goes for western medicine as well as herbal supplements. The scary part is that some people believe an untrained sales person at a vitamin store over a trained healthcare professional. We almost lost a cousin to prostate cancer because of this, and did loose an aunt to breast cancer. While some herbal products may work, some do not but also some may be harmful.
I do take some herbal supplements and found that they are quite effective for me. I realize that they are not regulated and wonder, "Why not?" Why not standardize these herbs? Why not research and establish healthy (i.e. non-toxic) dosages. I think it has much less to do with the efficacy of these products than it does with the pharmaceutical lobby. As I am reading these comments, I noticed that there is an AVANDIA ad at the top of my screen. I clicked on it to check out the side effects of this non-natural treatment that would be "better" than a natural alternative. The side effects include - heart failure and other heart related problems, swelling (edema), weight gain (wow - that will be great outcome for treating diabetics!), liver problems and more. You know, I'm really not convinced.
2/7/2009 9:30:13 AM
From my personal experience living/working in Germany in the 1980s: What is considered "alternative" medicine in the USA is often standard and highly successful medicine in the rest of the world. The German Army has been giving Echinacea to the troops for well over 20 years to fight illness. Immunotherapy has been a standard cancer (and autoimmune disease, such as colitis) treatment in Germany with extraordinary success rates for well over 20 years; it is also inexpensive. It remains unavailable in the USA. Reflexology is also utilized in German clinics and amazingly effective when practiced as serious medicine. Ditto acupuncture, which has eons of success in Asia. It angers me when people label these medical treatments "suspect"- it does our people a terrible disservice. Germany is where I will go back to, if, G-d forbid, I ever get cancer. Period. FYI: My mother's USA urologist prescribed daily cranberry juice which has kept her chronic urinary tract infections at bay. Finally.
Just from my experience, I never took a supplement but an iced tea I liked very much included ginseng. I experienced some major complications from drinking too much of that and also taking a presecription drug for anxiety. Something to think about! even if you're not taking it directly... it could still cause problems. The medication now carries a label stating it might be bad to take with certain over the counter herbal supplements.
Herbs have their place. I take them because I am in Menopause. They inhance the effects of the hormones I take, keep me able to handle the ups and downs. They also help with my "cracking bones". I think if you take them as they were ment to be taken, they will work for you. My docs wife is a herb specialist and she looked over my history and recommended the herbs I have been taking for many years. Herbs are like medicine, taken properly, they are great, mis-used, they can hurt you. Be responsible, get the facts from your doc first.
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