If you have ever shopped for herbal products in a health food store, you may have noticed that the labels almost never tell the potential medical benefits of the herb, much less, any directions or precautions for their use. Why is this?
Well, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits manufacturers from making any claims that any product will treat or prevent a disease until that product has been tested. Although, many herbs have age-old histories as safe healers, the manufacturer would have to get approved from the FDA, which is a lengthy and costly process.
Since natural substances, such as herbs, can not be patented, it would not be profitable to go through this approval process. This is also the reason why drug companies have little interest in exploring any promising herbal remedies.
As to sidestep the FDA regulation problem, herb suppliers have chose to sell their products as food supplements without therapeutic claims. However, this leaves the consumer clueless as to a products uses or risks and with no assurance of its potency or quality.
Given this confusion, here are a few helpful suggestions and ideas to consider in helping you to pick safely from natures garden of healing plants.
First and foremost is to educate yourself. The quality of commercially sold herbs varies widely. Dried herbs may lose their potency quickly if not stored properly. There is no government regulation for quality, potency, or authenticity. Purchase herbs from reputable companies with a name and reputation that they want to protect.
Do not play doctor. Never use alternative therapy instead of a proven medical treatment without consulting your physician first. In some cases, you can use herbs and other natural treatments as a substitute for conventional medicine, but there are also curative treatments you might miss if you don’t get a check up. Unless you are absolutely sure what is wrong, do not try to self medicate. If you do decide to try herbal remedies, use them for conditions you know are not serious and will eventually clear up by themselves, like colds or minor arthritis pain.
Do not presume that natural means safe. People tend to think that just because an herb is a plant, its safe to use. That is not always true. Some of the most extremely poisonous toxins known come from plants. Although, herbs have been used by thousands of people for hundreds of years with virtually no ill effects and many benefits, there has been reports of herbal remedies causing sickness, even a rare death. Buy herbal products only from reputable growers and manufacturers.
Start low and go slow. When trying a new herbal product start with the lowest dose. If you don’t experience any benefit after a week, gradually increase the dose. Do not take more than the recommended amount and don’t take high doses of any remedy for months or years unless the long term effects have been studied.
If you feel worse after taking an herbal remedy, stop taking it. If an herb disagrees with you or if you develop new symptoms after taking it, discontinue using it. Allergies or other adverse reactions to any plant substance is always a possibility.
Avoid herbal remedies if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications. Little is known about the effects of herbs on an unborn child or a baby through breast milk. Do not mix herbal remedies with prescription or over the counter drugs. An herb may make the action of another medication stronger or weaker.