I decided to take a bit of a diversion today. Recently a book was brought to my attention that actually frightened me. It was a book on how to use pendulums. Now this would seem to have no relationship to herbal medicine at all. Several of the graphs are of various herbs with titles like “herbs for arthritis” or “herbs for chest complaints”. The intention is that you are to use herbal medicine based on the swing of a pendulum!
While I am sure the author simply intended to point out herbs that have been useful for these issues, this is a dangerous practice. Herbs are medicine! Many current pharmaceuticals have stemmed from plants. Taking plants without knowing the uses, side effects and interactions can be extremely risky.
One example of this is raw garlic and onions. These are foods that many people consume on a daily basis with no problem. However both garlic and onion are natural blood thinners. If you are taking pharmaceutical blood thinners, particularly Warfarin, you need to remove these foods from your diet. Especially if you consume them in large quantities. Why? If you thin your blood too much you can be subject to excessive bleeding from something as simple as a cut.
Medications Changed by the Liver
There is an entire category of medications that are changed by processing through the liver. Herbal interactions with these medications can cause them to work far more effectively causing overdose. Herbal interactions can also cause these medications to work less effectively. You could then end up taking far more of the medication than you really need. Make sure you know the interactions prior to adding herbs to your self care.
Natural is Not Another Word for Safe
I am stunned by the number of people I know that think if something comes from a natural health store it is safe. Please DO NOT believe this. Natural remedies are amazing. They can be very, very effective but they are not “safe” because they are natural.
Foxglove (digitalis) is natural but if you take it on your own it can kill you quite quickly. According to WebMd “Foxglove can cause irregular heart function and death.” In this case I agree with them. You need to consult a healthcare professional for this herb.
Another “Natural” item is Goji berry. It is all the rage right now but I would recommend caution with this berry. I have stopped or slowed my heart from pumping eating just a few of these berries.
A major problem with mixing medications, supplements and remedies is that most people do not reveal all the things they are taking to the Doctor, the Specialist, the Naturopath or the Herbalist. Most people think that a few vitamins don’t count but vitamins have interactions with both herbs and drugs. If you are filling out a questionnaire or are asked if you are taking anything, please reveal everything you are taking.
When you go to a health food store looking for herbal remedies please remember that the person selling the remedy only knows what it is used for not how it interacts with YOU. Most clerks in these stores have no background education.
An example of this is a client I had that has Rheumatoid Arthritis. She had several issues and a compromised immune system due to her medications. She had been to store after store and was taking everything that they said would help. She had never mentioned that she was already taking anything.
She came to see me to try and stop taking some of her supplements. When I looked into what she was taking it turned out she was actually making things considerably worse.
She was on Methotrexate to treat her RA but she was overdosing on vitamin D by a huge amount. I asked her if her rheumatologist kept increasing her dose and she was surprised and responded that he was. I explained to her that among other things the vitamin D was doing exactly the opposite of the RA medications causing her to have to keep increasing her dose. She had never told her Dr’s that she was taking anything else. Thankfully she did go back and let them know all the supplements she was taking.
I love Herbal Medicine. It is my passion, but I also know that allopathic medicine came about for a reason. Both are needed and when used together can allow you to live a long healthy life.
Please consult your doctor if you are on medication and want to add an herbal supplement. Remember that Doctors simply don’t have time to know every herb and interaction. If you want to take a supplement do a small amount of research so you can let them know what the herb you are choosing does and if there are interactions or not. Even if you do not understand how it works If you give the doctor the basic info they can help you make an informed choice. Your health is your responsibility!
Stay healthy my friends!
THIS BLOG IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE THE ADVICE OF YOUR DOCTOR.