Herbs have been in existence, and in use, since long before prescription drugs were ever thought of. They are often hailed as a more natural way to treat ailments. But it is a common misconception that herbal supplements are without risk.
It is true that herbs are often safer than over-the-counter or prescription drugs. That is because they are in their natural state. They contain a number of compounds, and these compounds complement one another. Manufactured drugs, on the other hand, are usually comprised of a single substance. They may be derived from plant sources, but individual chemicals are isolated to create them. This process may leave out other chemicals that moderate or change their effects.
A frequent problem with herbal supplements is that they are not strictly regulated. They do not undergo the scrutiny that prescription and over-the-counter drugs are put through. They are actually regulated as dietary supplements rather than drugs, and that means that the requirements for them are more lenient.
That’s not to say that the government does nothing to ensure that herbal supplements are safe. The herbs that they are made from must undergo a certain amount of testing. The problem lies in the fact that the manufacture of the supplements is not subjected to the same high level of scrutiny as the manufacture of prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration does not review herbs before they are marketed, but they do take action if an herbal supplement is found to be unsafe once it reaches the market.
Other Herb Hazards
Something that people tend to forget about herbs is that they can interact with other substances. These include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, other herbs, and possibly even foods. For this reason, it is very important to get as much information as possible about any given herb before you start using it.
Just like any other medication, herbs should be avoided by people with certain medical conditions. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not use any type of herb without getting your doctor’s approval first. If you are going to have surgery, it is also important to let the surgeon know about any herbs that you are taking. Some may thin the blood or interact with anesthesia. And certain herbs may cause side effects that can be dangerous for certain groups of people. For example, an herb that may cause a rise in blood pressure should not be used by those with heart disease.
Just because a product is natural, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is completely safe. While herbal supplements often have fewer additives and side effects than prescription drugs, there are many things that should be considered before taking them. It is important to use the same amount of caution you would use when taking any other pill.