Herbs to Use With Caution – What You Need to Know

Individuals should use herbs with caution. An herb is any leafy plant without a woody stem. They are used mostly as a household remedy, flavoring or to treat some medical conditions and ailments. Although herbs are natural, they can sometimes have dangerous side effects, especially when taken with certain prescribed medications.

Although many herbs can have a good affect on the body, taking too much of some herbs can be the same as taking too much of a prescribed drug. Taking herbs as recommended on the label is a must, but researching how different herbs interact with other herbs or medications is also very important.

The manufacturers of herbal products are not required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to submit proof of safety or effectiveness. They do not have to go through the approval process or the same scientific strictness as conventional drugs. Therefore, the drug interactions and side effects associated with these remedies are sometimes unknown.

Herbal products cannot be marketed for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of disease. However, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows labeling that explains the role it may play in the well-being of the body. Sometimes these claims lead an individual to use it as a medication for various conditions or disease.

The impurities in herbal products are also not regulated. Some adverse effects can be caused by these impurities. Different manufacturers of these products will have different impurity variability.

Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions of Various Herbal Products

* Cayenne – used for muscle spasm and soreness or GI tract disorders – may cause skin ulceration and blistering if used externally for more than 2 days. If taken internally, overuse may cause hypothermia.

* Echinacea – used to boost the immune system and help with colds and flu. Also, used for wound healing – may cause inflammation of the liver when used with certain medications, such as anabolic steroids and
methotrexate.

* Ginger – used for reducing stomach upset, such as nausea and vomiting. Helps with vertigo – may increase bleeding, often with individuals taking anti-clotting medications.

* Garlic – used for lowering blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels and blood pressure – may increase bleeding, often with individuals taking anti-clotting medications.

* Ginseng – used to increase stamina and mental concentration – may decrease the effectiveness of anti-clotting medications. Also, may increase heart rate, blood pressure and cause bleeding in women after menopause.

* St. John’s Wort – used for mild to moderate depression, anxiety and sleep disorders – may cause gastrointestinal disturbances, allergic reactions, photosensitivity and dizziness. May interact with anti-depressant drugs.

* Ginkgo – used for increasing blood circulation and oxygenation. Also, used for increased memory and mental alertness – may increase bleeding, often with individuals taking anti-clotting medications.

* Ephedra – used in many over-the-counter diet aids and for asthma or bronchitis – may interact with antidepressant and blood pressure medications. May effect heart rate and can cause death in certain individuals.

* Valerian – used as a mild sedative, sleep-aid or muscle relaxant – may increase the effects of certain anti-seizure medications or prolong the effects of certain anesthetic agents.

Before using herbal supplements, research the manufacturer to make sure they are a reputable company and have adequate research results on their products. The purity of the tablet and dosage recommendations should be on the packaging, as well as information about the standardized formulations and possible side effects. Also, tell your doctor and pharmacist what products are being taken, especially if pregnant, breastfeeding or on prescribed medication.

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