Are Medicinal Herbs Safe To Use?

There is no medicinal herb with unpleasant side effects ever recommended by any botanic physician. With all the thousands of years of "trial and error", we pretty much know the medicinal effects of herbs.

Practically all herbals that are recommended for healing are based mostly on tradition, folklore or hearsay, and today we benefit from the accumulated herbal wisdom of the ages.

Most US Medical Journal articles on herbs tend to focus only on their dangers. For instance, coltsfoot and comfrey allegedly causes cancer. Licorice allegedly causes a serious hormonal disorder and chamomile blamed of triggering fatal allergic reactions. Herb advocates dismiss these allegations as ridiculous.

The fact of the matter is that medicinal herbs are neither "completely safe" nor "poison".  Medicinal herbs are just like any other medicines; you take to little - nothing happens, you take the right amount (of the proper herb) - you reap the healing benefits, but if you take too much too long - you are asking for trouble.

Nothing is absolutely safe. Whether it is pharmaceutical, herbal or over the counter. Safety is a judgment call requiring a risk/benefit evaluation. All medicines should be taken in recommended dosages. And if you have never taken it before, it is wise to start with the lowest dose at first; in case of a reaction.

Many believe medicinal herbs are safer than pharmaceuticals because they are natural. Herb critics oppose that pharmaceuticals are safer because users know precisely how much they are ingesting, which herb users can only guess at dosages with raw plant material.

Herb critics do have a point. Herb potency depends on plant genetics, growing conditions, maturity at harvest, time in storage, method of preparation and the possibility of adulteration.

On the other hand, there is no guarantee that pharmaceutical dose control will be used safely. You need look no further than the suicide statistics. In addition to that being said; different people have different reactions to the same dose of many drugs. For example, the adult dosage of aspirin is 2 tablets every 4 hours. But, for some people one tablet provides relief while others must take three to get the same results.

Medicinal herbs, in general, cause fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals are highly concentrated pills and capsules that have little taste; factors that make it easier to take an overdose. Whereas the active constituents of medicinal herbs are less concentrated and most taste bitter, which helps discourage overdose.

Any active substance, whether it be herbal medicine or pharmaceutical, that is capable of doing good when used properly, can also do harm when used improperly.

Here are some Safety Guidelines you need to keep in mind when healing with medicinal herbs.

1. Medicinal amounts of healing herbs should not be given to children under the age of 2. Unless you have the ok from your pediatrician and be sure to dilute preparations.

2. People over 65, or sensitive to other drugs need to start with low strength preparations. Elderly people develop increased sensitivity to drugs.

3. Pregnant and nursing women should not use medicinal amounts of healing herbs. (With a few exceptions.) Use only with the consent and supervision of your obstetrician. They may harm the unborn and newborns.

4. People with a chronic disease should be extra cautious. Medicinal herbs may interact with other drugs you might be taking. Always check with your physician or pharmacist first.

5. Use recommended amounts for recommended periods only. Herbs that have caused harm were due to consuming huge amounts for long periods of time.

6. Pay attention to any symptoms of toxicity. If you develop stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea and/or headache within an hour or two - STOP TAKING IT and see if symptoms subside. When in doubt, call your physician or pharmacist. If you experience a severe reaction, call your physician immediately.

7. Be extra careful when using herbal oils. Oils are highly concentrated, amounts that seem small may cause serious harm. If you use any, take only a drop or two at a time.

8. Never take herb identity for granted. Although most herbs are identified accurately, adulteration is still possible. Learn what medicinal plants smell, feel and taste like. If you have any doubt - do not ingest the herb.