Herbal medicine is the use of drugs found in plants for prevention and cure of disease. Some are safe but others may produce harmful side effects. When herbs are taken with a prescribed or over-the-counter drug, health problems may occur. Always check with your doctor before using herbal medicines.
- FDA approval is not required for package or marketing claims.
Unlike approved drugs, herbs are almost entirely unregulated for safety, uniformity of contents, and contamination. The correct dose of herbal products is often hard to determine. Herbal remedies may have other unlabeled medicines or materials mixed in with them.
Many herbal medicines are taken by drinking a tea. Avoid concentrating or over-steeping a tea remedy. Herbal extracts, tablets, and powders are also used.
Because scientific studies have not been done on many herbs, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and infants and young children should probably not use herbs. Older people with serious health conditions should also be careful about the use of herbs.
An herbal treatment that does not work, even if it won't hurt you, could delay getting necessary medical treatment.
A "natural" product from a plant is not necessarily better than the same chemical produced in a laboratory.
Some herbal products contain active ingredients that can produce unexpected side effects (for example, saw palmetto contains estrogen, a female hormone).
Examples of potentially harmful plant remedies:
|Herb||Potential Toxic Effect|
|Borage (Borago officinalis)||Skin irritation|
|Calamus (Acorus calamus)||Skin irritation, stomach upset, may cause cancer|
|Chaparral (Larrea indentata)||Liver damage|
|Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)||Liver damage|
|Ephedra; Ma-huang (Ephedra sinica)||Agitation, high blood pressure, rapid heart beat, convulsions|
|Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)||Liver damage|
|Life root (Senecio aureus)||Liver damage|
|Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)||Liver damage. Concentrated oil can cause convulsions, shock, and multi-organ failure|
|Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)||Liver damage. Concentrated oil can cause hallucinations, trembling, shock, and possibly cancer.|