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Caution: Herbal Warning Ahead

It's generally accepted amongst natural remedy advocates that many herbal remedies are they safe. However, one can never be too sure. Here are some safety tips for you concerning supplementing your diet with herbs.

The Facts

The medicinal use of herbs has quickly become THE preferred method of self-treatment for most consumers. A random sample of a group of multi-ethnic patients in an emergency room in New York City revealed some interesting statistics. 

Over twenty percent of the patients reported that they used herbal remedies. Reported herbal usage was highest among Asians and those of Pacific-Asian heritage, at nearly 40%. 

This random sampling, however, does not in ANY way signify the actual frequent use of complementary of herbal remedies by the general public over the last few decades. At the same time, though, it is important to recognize the potential side-effects of using herbal remedies along with chemical-based prescription meds.   

It's important for the attending medical staff to know what herbal remedy you may be using so as to document them use of herbal medicines to be included in your drug profile. I know that this is not a popular option among most herbal enthusiasts and practitioners. However, some contraindications may prove to be fatal to some patients.

It is a known fact among medical professionals and herbalists alike that plants naturally synthesize complex molecules and subsequently provide a rich supply of chemicals and enzymes. Chemically-derived prescription meds may clash with or even reverse this natural process. 

Active chemicals derived from plants are widely accepted effective medications for example, penicillin and quinine. 

What Are The Active Ingredients?

When components of plants or crude extracts of plants are used for medicinal purposes they're called herbal medicines.

Most herbal medicines contain tons of chemicals and there is typically no agreement as to which is potentially active. An example is garlic, comprised of many sulfur compounds, many of which are candidates for potential therapeutic activity.

Do Your Herbals Contain What's On The Label?

The only regulatory policy in The US markets is that each one product meant for medicinal use, together with natural health products, are issued a FDA Drug Code Number. However, these numbers don't seem to be required for raw materials like bulk herbs. Herbal medicines are not need to pass any regulatory analysis to be sold as a health food supplement. 

Experts have claimed many samples of herbal medicines have been determined to be corrupted with cheaper herbal substitutions (instead of using the herbs on the label), potentially toxic medications (e.g. phenylbutazone, artificial corticosteroids and alternative prescribed drugs), or even heavy metals.

Herbal Medicines.....Standardized?

The chemical constituents of plants vary depending on the species, selection and part of the plant, with conditions of growth (soil, water and temperature), and with the age of the plant. These complexities and variations of chemical content create standardization essential. In some cases standardization is tried, but it's difficult and infrequently accomplished.

Plants are wealthy sources of chemicals and potential sources of effective herbal medicines. However, more analysis, regulation, and standardization are needed before herbal medicines can be suggested as effective and safe therapies.

1.) photo credit: Self 5/12 via photopin (license)

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