Advances in medical diagnosis and treatment pinpoint, manage and cure diseases in ways that were unheard of not so long ago.
Drugs that effectively target disorders and symptoms, state-of-the-art surgical techniques, and lifestyle changes dramatically improve a patient’s prognosis and quality of life.
However, many individuals, concerned about side effects and recovery time—and often in hopes of achieving quicker results—are reluctant to turn to conventional medicine and the surgeon’s knife to treat their ailments.
People looking for a chemical- and surgery-free treatment regimen may decide that natural remedies are just what the doctor ordered.
Using herbal supplements to fix health problems and heal injuries seems like a win-win situation. Such remedies are believed to be safe as they are made from natural plants — and sometimes touted to be faster-acting than conventional therapies.
However, those choosing to use natural remedies for a quick, drug-free way to feel better and heal their ailments are not always aware of their true nature. Here are four common mistakes that people often make when they turn to natural remedies.
Assuming that Plant-based Remedies are a Safe Cure-all
Only a medical professional or trained herbalist should determine if a particular substance is harmless and effective. (Keep in mind that not all physicians are experts in alternate therapies. It is to a patient’s advantage to do some research and bring the results to the doctor.)
Seeing an ad on the internet touting, for example, the advantages of natural remedies for Fordyce spots, acne, impotence, diabetes etc. may seem like a perfect option if you are looking for a quick solution to your problem. However, many conditions need to be treated with more robust methods than herbs or other natural remedies can provide.
By the same token, the fact that something comes from a plant does not mean it is harmless. There are numerous plants out there sporting poisonous leaves (or other plant parts), an effective deterrent that keeps critters that eat them at bay.
For example, kava, considered a remedy for anxiety, is not only of doubtful effectiveness, it comes with a slew of health risks and side effect:
- Liver toxicity (often with only one dose) and a need for liver transplants.
- Uncontrolled body movements.
- Potential harm to unborn babies and breastfed infants.
- Parkinson’s disease that rapidly and dramatically worsens.
- Mild to severe gastrointestinal issues.
- Driving difficulties similar to those experienced by drivers under the influence of alcohol.
Being Unaware of Interactions Between Different Herbal Remedies, Prescription Drugs, and Nutritional Supplements
In the same way that conventional medications can have unpleasant side effects or dangers if taken together, plant-based therapies potentially interact in undesirable ways.
Here are three examples:
⦁ Chamomile tea does not mix with a number of substances, including aspirin and anticoagulants. (In 2006, a woman taking warfarin developed internal bleeding when she relieved cold symptoms with chamomile tea and lotions containing the herb.)
⦁ Saint John’s wort, which alleviates symptoms of depression, makes some drugs less effective —including digoxin, warfarin, and other heart medications.
⦁ Echinacea is one of the most widely used plant-based remedies; it has demonstrated the ability to prevent colds and help people recover more quickly. However, the remedy is not recommended for people with some types of allergies and autoimmune conditions.
Believing Natural Remedies are Safe for Everyone and in Any Amount
While many herbal therapies are harmless and effective, seeking medical advice is vital, especially for some individuals.
Women who want to become pregnant, are expecting a child, or are breastfeeding head the list. It is well-known that medications cross through the placenta to the baby and show up in breast milk; the same is true for plant-based remedies.
Children and seniors do not metabolize drugs the same way as other members of the population. Members of the former group, since they are exposed to many substances for the first time, have a greater tendency to acquire an allergy. And elderly people are more likely to take a number of drugs and have health concerns that may make using herbal treatments unwise.
People at any age with respiratory ailments, immunity issues, cardiovascular disease, kidney or liver disorders, cancer, and diabetes are especially advised to follow the general rule of seeking advice from their doctors about the safety of natural treatments.
A related misconception is that plant-based remedies, like food plants, are safe in any amount and for an unlimited amount of time. The reality is that taking too much or using them for too long is as risky as over using traditional medications.
Speaking to an herbal specialist, researching safe dosages, and following the product maker’s guidelines are vital steps. And be sure to know the proper interval between doses and how long it takes for the remedy to produce results.
Thinking that Natural Remedies are All High-quality and Tested for Safety and Effectiveness
Many herbal products, particularly those with fresh ingredients, have a short shelf life. In addition, different manufacturers do not necessarily use the same active and inactive ingredients. And, unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, there are no minimum standards, required testing, or mandated proof of effectiveness for natural remedies.
Consumers should always do their homework to verify the claims of the plethora of herbal remedies that appear on the Internet.
To increase the likelihood of proper dosage and the best effects, it is sometimes best to obtain standardized herbal remedies.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s site, the above-mentioned lack of regulation and quality control often means these preparations are frequently not properly labeled, and not everything in the bottle or package (including contaminants) is listed.
Being an educated consumer ensures that the plant-based products he or she chooses are wholesome and beneficial.
With all the uncertainties and conflicting data surrounding the safety, quality, and benefits of natural therapies, many people considering alternative treatments may be understandably reluctant to give them a try.
While herbal products cannot replace drug and surgical treatment, there are many advantages to plant-based remedies as a complement to conventional medicine.
With a healthy dose of knowledge, individuals with conditions from allergies to migraines to viruses can reap the benefits of natural remedies.