Are Herbal Medications Safe?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Just because it comes from a plant doesn’t make it safe.

Plants clearly have a lot of benefits for humans. They provide us with food, lumber for shelter, and the beauty from their flowers. There was a time in the past when plants were the only effective medications. Unfortunately, plants can also be harmful. Poison ivy can damage your skin and some plants are poisonous enough to kill you. The challenge is to know which plants are helpful and which are harmed.

There is a common misconception because something comes from a plant that makes it safe. Some plants are like water, in small amounts beneficial, maybe even necessary. But sometimes too much of a good thing can drown you. So how do we know when an herbal preparation is potentially dangerous?

The problem with tobacco.

Tobacco in one form or another has been used by humans for a very long time. In the 1800s tobacco is used as a treatment for diseases. It’s only recently that we’ve come to recognize the significant problems tobacco use can cause.

The Tobacco on the market today is likely much stronger than what people consumed a thousand years ago. It’s also much more readily available.

One of the major components of tobacco is nicotine. Nicotine is an effective insecticide. It’s good at killing insects. Unfortunately, nicotine extracted from tobacco is highly poisonous for humans also. This is a plant you shouldn’t eat. Any exposure to the nicotine in tobacco can be harmful.

Some problems with herbal medications.

First some general considerations and then a list of specific herbs that have been identified as potentially harmful.

There can be some significant problems with herbal medications. Most are largely unregulated. How they are grown and processed affects their potency. If you’re going to use herbal medications, you need to be an informed consumer and not rely on someone else to assure that the herbal medications save and effective. Here are some of the problems you may find with herbal medications.

Herbs are sold by plant weight, not by purity.

Herbal products are commonly sold by weight. You know how much you’re getting by weight but not what the active ingredients are. Think about the difference between eating fresh salad greens and letting them dry out in the sun for several months. How plants are picked and processed affects the amount of active ingredients in them. The common recommendation is that if you’re going to use an herbal product stick with one brand so that what you’re getting is more consistent.

Dosage of herbs is inconsistent.

Any herb may contain numerous chemicals. How much of what you’re getting varies between manufacturers and may even vary from one batch to the next.

Problems when herbs are combined with RX meds.

Interactions between prescription meds are common and are frequently well studied. If you are taking multiple prescribed medications, you should review them with your doctor. Interactions between herbal products and prescribed medications are less well known. It’s still a good policy you’re going to take an herbal medication to tell your doctor so that you don’t create an interaction between a prescribed med and an herbal product.

Here is a short list of herbal products that have been identified as being potentially harmful. Some of this risk involves dosage. Many people think if one pill is good then taking three or four a day might be even better. Higher doses may result in damage to certain organs.

You will find a video about herbal medications on the Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel. Here, as promised, is the list of herbal preparations that were discussed in that video which may have potentially harmful consequences.

Herbs which may be harmful.

Also called: Aconiti tuber, aconitum, angustifolium, monkshood, radix aconti, wolfsbane

Caffeine Powder
Also called: 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine

Also called: Creosote bush, greasewood, larrea divaricata, larrea tridentata, larreastat

Also called: Coughwort, farfarae folium leaf, foalswort, tussilago farfara

Also called: Blackwort, bruisewort , slippery root , symphytum officinale

Also called: Teucrium chamaedrys, viscidum

Greater Celandine
Also called: Celandine, chelidonium majus, chelidonii herba

Green Tea Extract Powder
Also called: Camellia sinensis

Also called: Ava pepper, kava , piper methysticum

Also called: Asthma weed, lobelia inflata, vomit wort, wild tobacco

Also called: Oxilofrine, p-hydroxyephedrine, oxyephedrine, 4-HMP

Pennyroyal Oil
Also called: Hedeoma pulegioides, mentha pulegium

Red Yeast Rice
Also called: Monascus purpureus

Usnic Acid
Also called: Beard moss, tree moss, usnea

Also called: Johimbi, pausinystalia yohimbe, yohimbine, corynanthe johimbi

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Four David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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