Herbal medications

More and more people worldwide are becoming increasingly disillusioned with conventional medicines and are turning to herbal products as an alternative. Research indicates that one in three American people are using some type of herbal medication.

It is, however, very important to speak to a health care professional before using any herbal medicine, especially if you are taking prescription medications. Herbal medications can cause potentially dangerous side-effects if taken simultaneously with prescription drugs. Before using any herbal medication, you will need to give your health care professional a comprehensive medical history – this must include all types of medications you use (over-the-counter remedies as well as prescription drugs).
What are herbal medications?
Herbal medications are obtained from plants. They produce a similar pharmacological effect as conventional medicines. Due to the fact that herbal medications contain chemical substances, patients may experience temporary side-effects such as stomach irritations, vomiting or nausea.

Important advice about herbal medications
Always purchase herbal products that clearly list the plant ingredients on the pack. Tell your health care professional what herbal product you are using.

If you are allergic to any flowers, pollen or plants, make sure that the ingredients of the herbal product are safe for you to use.

Always consult with someone who is well respected in the field of alternative medications. Many patients have been victims of false claims by so-called ‘professionals’ who have a limited knowledge about herbal medicines.

Women who are pregnant, or trying to fall pregnant, should not use herbal medications.

Herbal medications should not be administered to young children or babies.

To ensure that you are purchasing quality herbal products, the product label should indicate the following words: ‘guaranteed potency’ or ‘standardized’. This means that the product has been professionally analyzed and that it contains the correct ingredients. This will ensure that you are buying a high quality, effective product. Not all products are standardized.

Which herbal products are unsafe?
Two herbs that can be dangerous in certain situations are Licorice and Ephedra.

Licorice is used for the prevention of cancer, as an expectorant, and to treat ulcers. Licorice is not safe for use by patients who suffer with kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, or heart disease. Licorice should not be used by pregnant women. When considered safe for use, Licorice should never be administered for longer than six weeks.

Ephedra is used as an appetite suppressant, a decongestant, and to treat allergies, depression as well as asthma. Ephedra, which comes from the phen-fen herb, has been known to increase blood pressure. It has also been associated with stroke, heart attacks, tremors, and death.

Are herbal medicines safe to use?
Yes, as long as you consult with your health care professional first, and purchase your products from established, reputable suppliers. Make sure that doses are administered correctly and that you are informed about any possible side-effects.