Areas Of Caution When Using Herb Treatments And Herbal Remedies


Areas Of Caution When Using Herb Treatments And Herbal Remedies

You might have heard that herbal treatment of ailments can be as effective as conventional drugs, but without the side effects. Indeed, studies on herbs for various health conditions have found rather positive results.

Nonetheless, there are some pointers you need to be aware of when using herbal remedies for your ailments. Awareness of these pointers will help you use herbs for ailments in safer and more effective ways.

Effects of herbs can be quick and potent too

First of all, it is wrong to assume that all herbs act slowly and mildly. While the effects of herbs are usually slower and less dramatic than that of purified drugs (especially those administered by more direct routes, such as through injection directly into the blood stream), adverse effects can occur if an inappropriate herb or dosage is used [1].

Presence of poison or adverse interactions with other medicines

Some herbs also contain poison, and are safe for use only when they have been properly processed, are combined with neutralizing herbs, etc [2]. Some herbs are also not safe for use in combination with other medicine, especially conventional western medicine [complementary]. Given the complexity in the use of herbs, it is best to consult a qualified professional if you wish to make use of herbal treatments for your health ailments.

Consistency and standardization

With the use of herbs, especially whole herbs, it can be hard to ensure consistency in effectiveness between different batches. After all, herbs (unlike drugs which are single chemicals that can be easily quantified) are actually living organisms comprising of thousands of chemical components (like you and me).

The proportion of chemical components can differ drastically between two herb plants, depending on many factors such as where and how the herbs are grown, when they are harvested, etc. This means that there is no way you can be sure that your batch of herbs will be as effective as the ones tested in published studies [3].

This problem in consistency has led to an initial motivation to find the active components in herbs and purify them into single-chemical drugs [3] (of course another big reason for wanting to break herbs down into their active components is to be able to patent a new drug).

Nonetheless, it is not always possible to identify the specific active ingredients that give a particular herb its medicinal properties. While the effects of some herbs may be brought about by single specific chemicals in the herbs, the effects of other herbs may be brought about by a complex synergistic interaction between several constituents in the plant (e.g. sedative action of valerian) [1]. In fact, it seems that many of today’s popular medicinal herbs do not contain any known, single, active ingredients [3].

Also, not everyone is in favor of breaking down herbs into their active ingredients. This is especially so when it comes to traditional healing arts that greatly recognize the holistic healing properties of herbs. As noted by Bian Baolin, Director of research and development at the Institute of Herbal Medicine, China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in Beijing, “extracting only some of the ingredients from the herbs might impair the original effectiveness and cause more serious side effects.” [4]

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