Herbal remedies have stood the test of time, and today roughly 80% of the world’s population relies on traditional medicines for primary health care needs. Herbal remedies and their efficacy have been confirmed in research, but nevertheless caution is necessary.
Not all herbal preparations are equal. Herb potency can differ due to growing and storage conditions. Toxic contaminants can be present in herbal preparations, and the best way to ensure a quality product is to purchase a product from a quality controlled source.
Anybody using herbal products should bear in mind that “natural” does not mean “harmless”. Many plants like catnip, juniper, lobelia, jimson weed, wormwood and nutmeg can inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system significantly and cause severe hallucinogenic effects. Patients with allergies to asters, chrysanthemums and ragweed should avoid teas from goldenrod, marigold, yarrow, St. John’s Wort and chamomile, as there is the possibility of cross-reactivity. Comfrey, which is a commonly used folk remedy in Europe and North America, has been shown to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which causes liver damage and cancer in animals and in humans.
There is a common notion that herbal teas that are used as laxatives would be entirely safe. Unfortunately it is not as simple as that. The continued use of cathartics (herbs that are laxatives) can be dangerous, as they cause a dependency or the so-called lazybowel problem.
If herbs are used it is important to be vigilant to negative interactions with medications. St. John’s Wort interferes with cyclosporin, digoxin, epileptic drugs and indinavir. Gingko should be used with caution by patients who are on warfarin (a blood thinner) because it can cause excessive bleeding. Deaths have been associated with the use of ephedra.
It is also of importance that herbal remedies should not been taken during pregnancy, unless the safety of taking them has been assured. To get qualified information the consumer should beware of flashy headlines promising miracle cures and seek the advice from a licensed health professional who is properly trained in the prescription of herbs.
It is also of importance to mention the use of herbal medications along with other medications that are used in order to assure the therapeutic benefits for the patients who uses them.
Reference: The Canadian Journal Of Diagnosis, January 2006,page 35 and 36
Last edited December 6, 2012