Healthsheet

Using Herbs Safely

Using Herbs Safely

Herbal therapies have been used in both Western and Eastern cultures for centuries. Herbal therapy is designed to both treat illness and enhance overall health and well-being. Behind this therapy is the belief that nature itself produces effective medicines.

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 are used to make herbal remedies. Multiple herbs may be combined into one formula. The combined herbs work together to reduce or even prevent possible side effects of the remedy. This is often referred to as the synergistic effect of herbal remedies.

If you use herbal supplements, take them as carefully as you would take prescription medicine. Herbs should be given under the advice of a qualified herbalist. Avoid selecting your own herbs or dosages without getting professional help. And always keep your medical health care provider informed 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 given by professionals.

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

Fact: Herbal remedies don't have production guidelines like those of prescription medications. An herbalist 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.


Questions for the herbalist

Before you decide whether to have herbal therapy, talk with an herbalist. 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 health care 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:

  • American Association of Naturopathic Physicians www.naturopathic.org
  • American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine www.aaaomonline.org
  • Herb Research Foundation www.herbs.org
  • American Herbal Products Association www.ahpa.org