Posts Tagged ‘herbal medicines’

Hello everyone & welcome to Natural Healing.  Please read the About page and my Disclaimer  to learn more about me and what we are all about.  Before we get into identifying different herbs, I decided to answer the age old question that I am sure most of you are wondering; Are Healing Herbs Safe?” This is a question that you should ask to the person recommending the herb to you, if they come right out & say yes without any hesitation then get a second opinion.

The truth in the matter is that some of the most potent poisons  known to man are also herbal. One of the most common is poison hemlock, which is also known as wild parsley. This is the reason that you should never pick parsley in the wild. Another common example is the Amanita mushroom also known as death cap. So don’t go picking wild mushrooms unless you are certain that you can identify them correctly.

So again are herbal medicines safe? The correct answer to this question is: Most of the popular medicinal herbs, including those that we will be discussing are reasonably safe for most people, most of the time when taken in the recommended amounts. But medicinal herbs do contain pharmacologically active  compounds that have the same drug effects on your body as prescription medicines will & while these drugs can heal you then can also cause harm such as allergic reactions, side effects, possible fetal injury & interactions with other herbs & drugs. .

Overall herbs are safer for you to take than pharmaceuticals, but can still can still cause harm, so as with any medications be sure that it is safe for you to take before taking it.

In recent years, since many people have been turning to medicinal herbs instead of pharmaceuticals, headlines have proclaimed the hazards of using healing herbs. Here are some of the headlines: ( I have taken these headlines from various reports online, newspapers & magazines of the years.)

* Potentially serious surgery-related bleeding complications have developed in people taking herbs with anticoagulant action, including Garlic & Ginseng. Ginkgo was also blamed, but it appears that was a false accusation. (We will touch on this accusation more when we cover Ginkgo.)

* Kava has been blamed for serious liver failure, including some deaths.

* St John’s Wort can interfere with the action of several prescription drugs.

* Chinese ephedra (ma huang) has been abused by some people seeking amphetamine-like intoxication. At very high doses,it can cause death.

* Herbal laxatives (Buckthorn, Cascara, Sagrada, Rhubarb, & Senna) have also caused problems: abdominal cramps, bloody stool, & eventually even potentially serious electrolyte imbalances from regular use of unusally high doses.

There’s no question about it, herbal medicines can cause problems. That’s why each herb that we discuss here we will contain extensive information on safety & side effects of every herbs discussed in this blog.

However, by any reasonable measure of drug safety, pharmaceuticals cause much more harm. Around the same time that the reports came out about the problems with medicinal herbs, reports were also published about the harm that pharmaceuticals can cause. Here are those articles as they appeared in various sources.

* According to the most recent report from the American Association of Poison Control  Centers, pain relievers, cough & cold preparations, antibiotics, sedatives, & antidepressants accounted for more than 400,000 poisonings ( both accidental overdoses & intentional suicide attempts) in 2006. Among the hazardous substances listed in each category, almost none were medicinal herbs. In fact, the most hazardous plants turned out to be houseplants, because infants & toddlers sometimes munched on them & become ill.

* For a report published in the April 15, 1998, edition of the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers at the University of Toronto combed through 30 years of medical literature for reports of drug side effects among hospital patients. Extrapolating from the most scientifically rigorous 39 studies, the researchers estimated that drug side effects kill an astonishing 106,00o, U.S. hospital patients a year & cause 2.2 million serious but nonfatal medical problems. In other words, adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals rank as this country’s fourth leading cause of death, according for more fatalities than AIDS, suicide & homicide combined. These side effects did not result for medical errors. They occurred when drugs were   administered in accordance with FDA dosage guidelines.

It is clear that pharmaceuticals have their own safety issues. But which are more hazardous? Pharmaceuticals or herbal medicines? Conventional medications win that contest hands down. Even the regrettable death toll caused by all the potentially hazardous herbs combined are dwarfed by the problems caused by pharmaceuticals.

Of course there are more people that take drugs then use herbs. From a cost-benefit perspective, its more responsible to prescribe potentially hazardous drugs to treat serious conditions. My point here is not to condemn pharmaceuticals , but to point out that despite some problems herbal medications do not pose a major threat to you.

I just want to say again that I am in no way saying that pharmaceuticals are bad for you. I am just pointing out that just like herbal medications,  pharmaceuticals can also cause problems if not taken correctly.

I hope that you enjoyed this post & that it helped you to understand herbal medicines a little better. Be sure to check back daily, we will continue to discuss herbal medicines & in a few days I will start a page listing different herbs.

If you have any questions please feel free to email me at herbalhealing13@yahoo.com and I will be happy to answer them for you.

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Some of the critics of herbal medicine say that herbs are hazardous because typical preparation directions  (1 — 2 tablespoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water, steeped for 10 — 20 minutes) yields infusions with highly variable doses of the medicinally active compounds. In contrast, when people take pharmaceuticals, they know exactly how much of the active ingredients they’re getting.

Yes, the critics do have a point. Herb potency depends on the plant genetics, growing conditions, maturity at harvest, time in storage, the possibility of adulteration, and the preparation method.  For example, a cup of instant coffee contains about 65 milligrams of caffeine. Cappuccino drinks may contain more than 300.

On the other hand, you need to look no further than the statistics on the suicide to know that precise dose control is no guarantee that pharmaceuticals will be safely used safely. In addition, drug effects depend on body weight. A standard dose of pharmaceutical drugs taken by a person who weighs 120 lbs has a greater effect then the same dose taken by someone who weighs 200 lbs. Lastly individuals vary, different people often have different reactions to the same drugs.

How do you react to drugs? For a headache, the standard adult dose is 2 tablets every 4 hours. Through experience some people realize that 1 tablet provides sufficient relief while others must take 3.

In general healing herbs cause less side effects than pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals tend to be highly concentrated. Pills and capsules have little taste. Both factors that make taking an overdose easier. The active constituents of herbs are less concentrated, and most herbs taste bitter, both which help to discourage an overdose. Nonetheless, those who use healing herbs must strive for good dose control.

The doses that I will recommend on this blog represent a consensus of the opinions found in both traditional herbs and scientific references. In the cases where my sources disagreed significantly, I will recommend the smaller amount, in the belief that it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Today, an increasing number of herbal medicines are available in pills and capsules as standardized extracts. This means that the plants were grown from seeds or clones known to produce a certain concentration of the pharmacologically active compounds. The plants are then harvested, stored, and prepared under controlled conditions to produce dose uniformity.

Standardized extracts are not quite as dose-controlled as laboratory-synthesized pharmaceuticals, but they are considerably more dose-controlled than bulk herbs. When you buy commercial preparations, look for the standardized extracts.



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