HealthSheets™


Using Herbs Safely

Herbal therapies have been used in both Western and Eastern cultures for centuries as part of healing traditions across the world. Herbal therapy is designed to prevent chronic and acute disease processes, treat illness, and enhance overall health and well-being. Behind this natural healing modality is the belief that nature itself produces effective medicines, which over time, have evolved alongside the human body to meet its daily and long-term needs. 

Image of vitamins, suppliments and fresh herbs and spices.

The healing power of plants

Herbal therapy is sometimes called botanical medicine. It uses plant-based remedies as medicine. The root, leaf, stem, and even the flower or pollen may be used to make herbal remedies. Multiple herbs may be combined into one formula. The combined herbs may work together to reduce or even prevent possible side effects and strengthen the formula. 

Take any herbal supplements as carefully as you would take prescription medicine. Take them only under the advice of a qualified herbalist or practitioner who is trained and certified in botanical medicine. Do not use herbs or dosages without professional help. And always tell your primary care provider about your herbal treatments.

 

Myths and facts about herbs

Myth: Herbs are all natural, so they can do no harm to you.

Fact: Herbs are powerful substances. They should be overseen by professionals.

Myth: All over-the-counter herbs are the same.

Fact: Herbal remedies don’t have production guidelines like those of prescription medicines. A trained professional can help ensure that you get high-quality products.

Myth: The more herbs you take, the better the results.

Fact: Some herbs are toxic in high doses and can make you sick. More is not always better. Take only as directed.

Myth: Herbs can be taken at any time, with any medicine, and even when you are pregnant or nursing. 

Fact: There are many herb/drug interactions which may be dangerous to your health if taken with certain prescription medicines. Also, many herbs are not safe to take during pregnancy and nursing. Always talk to a trained professional before combining herbal medicines with your prescription medicines or if pregnant or nursing.

Questions for the herbalist

Before you decide whether to have herbal therapy, talk with a trained professional. Asking him or her some of these questions may help you make an informed decision:

  • What is your training? How long have you been practicing?

  • Do herbs have side effects? Will they affect other medicines I take?

  • Have you treated problems like mine?

  • Will you work with my healthcare provider?

  • What will a typical visit be like?

  • How long will treatment take and how much will it cost?

  • Where do you get your herbs?

Resources

Research herbal therapy in your local library, on the Internet, or contact:

  • Herb Research Foundation  www.herbs.org

  • American Herbal Products Association www.ahpa.org

  • The American Botanical Council  www.abc,herbalgram.org 

  • National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)  www.nccih.gov

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