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Things to Consider Before Using Herbs and Other Dietary Supplements

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While some people regard herbs and dietary supplements as useless, there are also individuals that claim these beneficial and safer than the actual medications. The good news, herbs and food supplements could actually work; the bad news, they can be harmf

Most herbs and dietary supplements maybe cheaper than the actual drug, but with misinformation or misuse, these health products can also lead to greater health problems which would mean a lot of spending money. As a rule, drugs have side effects because they have active constituents. If supplements can cause harm, then they do have active ingredients same as the real medicine. Then if that’s the case, these supplements that contain a warning ‘No therapeutic claims’, can relieve ailments too.

Oregano is a notorious herbal plant in the Philippines. While visiting in Bicol, I learned a queer practice with this herb. I was instructed to steam two to three leaves of it, and then squeeze the liquid of these leaves on a tablespoon. I was about to take the cure but the elderly who recommended the oregano herb, advised me to go out of the house to let the afternoon moist get into the oregano extract.

While the first two steps made sense, the last one had been puzzling. The herb did work for me. And why wouldn’t it? Since the earlier times, oregano had been known to be effective for cough.

Comparing the herb to a cough formula, oregano could have been cheaper. The preparation process is also simple but the taste made all the difference. Drugs in capsule or in tablet forms are more convenient to take, tasteless unlike any extracted plant. And suppose… what if I happen to use too much oregano leaves?

Too much of a good thing

Most people say that natural products have no side effects. This is myth, its either they are using too little of it or the supplement or herb is still new and hasn’t been used for a longer period of time. The thing is: one problem in using herbs and other supplements is that some individual do not know how to use these.

Taking a natural remedy or supplement is also like using the synthetic drug. You must also consider the strength and the dosage regimen. While an inadequate dose may not provide a desired result, an over dose can be harmful too. If you would want to take herbal cure, seek advice to experts who have already been successful in using the remedy. For supplements, follow the instructions on the label. It is also important to talk to your doctors before engaging to these cures. Herbal medicines and supplements may cause problems with your other medications.

Drug interactions

If you are taking maintenance drugs like antihypertensive or oral hypoglycemic types for your high blood pressure or diabetes respectively, it is important that you check the herb or the supplement you intend to use. Ginkgo biloba for instance, is said to be beneficial for the elderly for it can help treat age-associated memory impairment including Alzheimer’s. However, if an individual is taking a diuretic or other blood pressure control medicine, gingko biloba may hinder the effect of these drugs.

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Ginkgo biloba won’t also work with aspirin and other blood thinners like clopidogrel, ticlopidine, warfarin, heparin etc. This herb contains some constituents that affect blood clotting therefore, can potentiate the effect of the anti-coagulant drugs causing uncontrolled bleeding or haemorrhage.

Not all natural products are safe

The belief, ‘Natural, dietary products cannot hurt’ is another myth. Consider hemlock, cyanide or cocaine- these are natural products that originated from plant. Marijuana is usually used in its unadulterated form, would you consider this one safe?

A 2003 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine reported a study that checked more than 100 websites that are selling 115 herbal products which are suspected to contain aristolochic acid- an ingredient that has been found to cause cancer and kidney failure. The mentioned on-line products were Cold Away, Mothers Earth cough syrup, Cramp Relief, PM- Ease and Wild Indian hemp syrup. Neither the websites nor the manufactures of these products told the consumers what they need to know.

And why would they? The side effects were mere suspicions and naturally, manufacturers or dealers won’t reveal a flaw of their product. Remember that herbs and dietary supplements are classified as food supplements not drugs. These products are not inspected thoroughly by the FDA. No clinical trials or tests have been done unlike the prescription or the over-the-counterdrugs. And sadly, the safety and the effectiveness of these food supplements do not have to be documented.

The anecdotal evidence

Unlike drug products that are tested for a long period of time, health products may not have enough clinical proofs. However, they do have anecdotal evidences. Food supplement manufacturers usually make use of these for promotions. Anecdotal evidence refers to success stories of people who have found relief in using herbs or dietary supplements. While anecdotal evidences may be found in Medias like in magazines, television or posted in websites, these may come directly from the mouth of the user or as a recommendation of a trusted physician.

In the English dictionary, anecdotal means unreliable. The individual who has been successful with a food supplement was not observed by anyone taking it or how he has taken it. For one thing, what if there are some factors that could have affected the person’s condition while taking the food supplement?

Anecdotal evidences may be undependable but if 75 out of 100 people have the same confirmation then there’s a chance!

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Herbs and other dietary supplements do work. We just have to learn to use them properly and of course bear in mind the dangers. Taking herbal or dietary supplement is more risky than the actual drugs. People fear prescription or over-the-counter drugs because of the known side-effects but bear in mind that most food supplements have no known adverse reactions because they lack clinical testing.

© Phoenix Montoya @ January 13, 2011

References:

Smart Medicine by Peter Weaver

More related articles:

Medicine Myths

On Managing Drug Side-Effects

Captopril, Salicylic Acid, Isosorbide Mononitrate and Other Drug Mix-Ups

Ascof and Solmux: A Comparison of Two Cough Remedies

13 comments

+Paulose
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Posted on May 16, 2012
Eve Sherrill York
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Posted on Mar 8, 2012
Roberta Baxter
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Posted on Dec 27, 2011
Phoenix Montoya
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Posted on Jul 25, 2011
Phoenix Montoya
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Posted on Jul 25, 2011
Eve Sherrill York
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Posted on Jul 25, 2011
deepblue
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Yovita Siswati
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Ron Siojo
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James R. Coffey
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Posted on Jan 13, 2011
chy99
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Brenden Koo
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Posted on Jan 13, 2011

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Phoenix Montoya

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