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What You Should Know About Herbal Health Products

Arenít herbal health products safe because they are natural?

Donít think that herbal health products are safe just because they come from plants. Even some plants are poisonous. Although herbal products are advertised as ďnaturalĒ they are not natural to the human body. Unlike prescription medications, herbal products do not have to be tested to prove that they work well and are safe before they are sold. In addition, herbal products may not be pure. They might have other things in them, like plant pollen, that could make you sick.

Do any medical problems make it more dangerous to take herbal health products?

Yes. It may not be safe to take herbal medicines if you have certain health problems. Talk to your physician if you have had any of these problems at some time in the past:

High blood pressure
Thyroid problems
Psychiatric problems
Parkinsons' Disease
Enlarged prostate gland
Blood clotting problems
Diabetes
Heart disease
Epilepsy
Glaucoma
Stroke

What are possible side effects of herbal health products?

Herbal health products are not tested to be sure they are safe, so they may cause problems. Be sure to tell your physician if you get a health problem while you are taking an herbal product. If you are taking ginkgo biloba, you may have bleeding as a side effect. St. Johnís Wort can cause an upset stomach, a tired feeling, dizziness, confusion, or dry mouth. You may also get sunburn more easily. If you are taking any ephedra product, also called mah huang, you could have many problems. You could have high blood pressure, or an uneven heartbeat. You may feel nervous, have headaches, or have trouble falling asleep. You could even have a heart attack or stroke. If you take kava products you may feel sleepy, get a rash, or have strange movements of your mouth and tongue or other parts of your body.

Can herbal products change the way prescription medicines work?

Yes. Some medicines should not be taken with herbal products. For instance, do not take ginkgo biloba if you are taking aspirin, Ticlopidine (brand name Ticlid), Clopidogrel (brand name Plavix) or Dipyridamole (brand name Persantine). Do not take St. Johnís Wort if you are taking an antidepressant. Do not take ephedra if you are taking a decongestant or a stimulant drug, or if you drink caffeinated beverages. Do not take kava products if you are taking benzodiazepine (a barbiturate), an antipsychotic medicine, or any medicine used to treat Parkinsons' Disease. Also, do not drink alcohol if you take kava products.

This being said, it is further recommended that all patients supplement a good broad-spectrum multivitamin/multimineral to their regular dietary regimens.


 

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