Caution while using Natural Medicines

A common misconception about herbalism and the use of 'natural' products in general, is that 'natural' equals safe. Nature however is not benign and many plants have chemical defence mechanisms against predators that can have adverse effects on humans. Examples are hemlock and nightshade, which can be deadly to humans. Herbs can also have undesirable side-effects just as pharmaceutical products can, exacerbatedby lack of control over because dosage and purity.

Name Confusion
The common names of herbs may be shared with others with different effects. In Belgium, in a TCM-remedy for losing weight, one herb was swapped for another that caused kidney damage. Starmint is an herb used for tea. One varieties causes elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate, differentiated by the suffix of its Latin name.

Medical Interaction

It is often advised that those wishing to use herbal remedies first consult with a physician, as some have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when used in combination with various prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. For example, dangerously low blood pressure may result from the combination of an herbal remedy that lowers blood pressure together with prescription medicine that does the same thing. However, please be aware that most physicians have no knowledge of herbal medicine, so may not be the best sources of information. Also, there is little known about interactions of herbal remedies with pharmaceuticals, since contrary to pharmaceutical medicine, there is no system in place to report and publish any (adverse) interactions, so even herbalists may not be aware of adverse interactions.

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