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Herbal Health Products

Just because a herbal health product or supplement is natural, does it mean it is safe?

It depends. Just because herbal products and supplements are from plants, it does not mean they are safe or safer than medications. There are many poisonous plants. And, even though many herbal supplements and other products are labeled as natural does not mean they are healthy for the human body.

One bad thing about herbal supplements is that they do have to be tested and approved by the federal government or other agencies to prove they are safe and work as promised. The supplements do not even have to be pure. They can contain ingredients that could make many people sick, like pollen from plants. They can also include ingredients like estrogen or steroids and not be labeled properly, so you don’t even know you are taking those ingredients. Herbal supplement manufacturers could also use toxic ingredients like mercury, lead, pesticides, and arsenic.

What herbal products are available?

 There are hundreds of products made from herbal ingredients. Most of them are supplements that claim to treat a variety of symptoms, but there is rarely any evidence to prove that the claims are true.

Chondroitin sulfate, echinacea, garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, glucosamine, melatonin, ephedra, phytoestrogens (like black cohosh and soy), saw palmetto, kava and St. John’s wort are some of the more popular herbal products on the market today.

Am I creating or increasing risks when I take herbal products?

You could potentially start health problems or aggravate pre-existing conditions. The elderly have more risks with herbal supplements than any other age group. You should talk to your health care professional before you take any herbal supplements, especially if you have any of these conditions:

•Problems with Blood Clotting

 •Prostate gland enlargement

 •Heart Disease

 •Epilepsy

 •Glaucoma

 •High blood pressure

 •Immune system problems

 • Stroke

 •Parkinson’s disease

 •Liver problems

 • Psychiatric problems

 •Thyroid problems

 

You should also let your doctor know that you take herbal supplements if you are going to have surgery. Some herbal products can create bleeding and anesthesia problems. You should stop taking the herbal products for at least two weeks before you are going to have surgery, unless your doctor recommends you to stop for a longer period of time.

Can herbal health products affect the way how my over the counter or prescription medications work?

Herbal products can affect the body in a variety of ways, and they can have a variety of effects on other medications. St. John’s wort affects the way the body absorbed certain prescription medications. So, your prescription or recommended dosage may not work as prescribed, which could lead to potentially serious problems.

If you are taking any of the following medications, you should be cautious and you should speak to your health care provider:

• Anti-seizure drugs

 • Blood pressure medicine

 •Blood thinners

 • Cancer drugs

 • Diabetic medications

 • Heart medicine

 • Psychiatric medication

 

It is very important to speak with your physician if you are taking these drugs and you are also taking herbal supplements or you plan to take herbal supplements.

Can herbal supplements cause other problems?

 Herbal supplements can have many different effects on the body even if you are not taking any other medications or herbal products. Some of the examples are:

If you are on a low sodium diet, you may not want to take glucosamine, because it contains sodium.

Kava can negatively affect you when you drink alcoholic beverages.

If you are allergic or have aspirin sensitivity, you should not take phytoestrogen because it contains salicylates.

You should not even take any herbal supplement in any other way than is directed by the bottle or your doctor. If you take too much of an herbal product or take it for too long, you are more likely to have problems with them.


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