Natural is Safe Right?
Natural, Healthy Alternative, Organic, Herbal, all of these words conjure up pictures of safe natural ways to heal ourselves.
Vitamins are healthy and needed, aren’t they? I am a strong proponent of natural remedies but I also believe that YOU are responsible for knowing what you are putting in your body.
Many herbal supplements, natural remedies and vitamins interact with Allopathic (Dr prescribed) medicine, over the counter drugs and even each other. Some combinations can make you nauseous, some can give you headaches and some can be life threatening. The way around this is to know what you are taking and what helps and what hinders its actions.
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and take a degree in natural medicine. Do your research, find a healthcare or alternative practitioner to help you.
Just because someone you know took it or someone who knows someone who took it and it worked great is not enough information to go on. That person will have had different needs than you.
How Herbs Work
People tend to believe that herbs act the way allopathic medicine works. Not true! In general a certain herb MAY work for a certain issue. One example is Gingko Biloba. Ginkgo can prevent varicose vein pain. It does this by toning the blood vessels so it will impact all of your blood vessels not just the ones you are targeting.
Herbs go where your body needs them. An herb taken to calm may actually cause an increase in anxiety.
Some herbs have no interactions with other substances at all. Things like lemon balm are good for the majority of people unless they have an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions are not common but they do happen.
Some herbs like Foxglove are in fact lethal if taken without medical assistance. Foxglove is digitalis. It is illegal in BC as an over the counter remedy and if you find it being sold this way in any store you need to question the validity of what you are being told. Foxglove MUST be dispensed by a qualified professional. For more information check out The Poison Garden Homeopathic amounts seem to be sold in many pharmacies and herbal pharmacies may or may not dispense foxglove depending on their location and inclination.
Vitamins interact with medications. Vitamin A interacts with corticosteroids such as Prednisone and oral contraceptives to name a few interactions.
B vitamins interact with a great number of medications particularly B6. Ladies if you are using oral contraceptives and want them to work make sure you know how the vitamins you take interact with them.
Not all vitamin interactions are bad. Vitamin C is sometimes prescribed with Methotrexate which is a medication for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It actually assists the medication.
Over the counter medications react with medications and herbs as well. Advil will increase stomach problems caused by some drugs. Tylenol so far will not. I take Advil for the occasional headache I get and I keep this in mind so I won’t take it too often.
Blood thinners not only interact with vitamins and over the counter medicines but also with some foods. You may wonder when the Doctor advises you to avoid garlic or onions when you are taking blood thinners. These foods also thin the blood and can increase the effectiveness of the medication by a dangerous amount.
Dosage is very important as well. It is possible to overdose on everything from medicine to over the counter to herbs and yes even vitamins. I recently ran across a case where the person was taking 3 times the recommended daily dose of a vitamin. Depending on what else you are taking and health issues this can cause some pretty unpleasant side effects.
This blog is not meant to put you off of natural remedies. They can be amazingly powerful and have positive effects. At times they may even be the thing that can make the difference.
My reason for posting this is the increasing number of people I come in contact with that self medicate with “natural” remedies without having any idea that this can be dangerous. They are assuming that Natural and Safe mean the same thing. This is also true for many people that believe as long as it is from a “health food” store it is safe.
For natural remedies to work the way you want them to they must be safe for you to take. If you choose to take them in conjunction with medicines, over the counter remedies and vitamins without knowing the interactions then not only will they not work properly but in some cases can actually damage your health.
Be informed before you ingest any medications and please if a Doctor, Naturopath or Herbalist asks you for a list of the medications you are taking, remember to list herbal supplements, over the counter medicines and pain relief medicines as well as vitamins.
For your own well being, be informed!