Safety of Herbal Remedies

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Are Herbal Medicines safe? What are the risks, if any of taking herbal remedies? Are herbal remedies safer than conventional medicine?

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I have often had people ask if herbal remedies are safe. That is a little like asking if all animals are safe.

The simple answer is: Be more specific. Rubbing Comfrey on your skin is safe, ingesting it is not.

There are much more herbs that are safe than herbs that are potentially harmful.

All the berries: blackberry, bilberry, barberry and bayberry, to name just a few, are important healing herbs as well as being favorites in pies, deserts and the fruit platter. They are under normal circumstances safe but if you are one of those rare people that suffer from a rare allergy, they may not be.

Some herbs are safe to be ingested after boiling but harmful when fresh, others are safe for topical applications in salves and ointments but poisonous if ingested. Some are even safe to ingest but irritant to the skin. Some, like Wolf's bane (Aconite), Deadly Nightshade (belladonna) and Ignatius beans are so poisonous that merely handling the plant may be life threatening.

Scary? Not really.

We live in a world where toxic substances are all round us. How many of us do not have a beautiful rhododendron growing in our gardens? Did you know that the leaves contain a deadly poison? Did you know that an Azalea is a member of the Rhododendron plant family?

Providing that you make sure that you are fully informed and follow the instructions and dosage you are taking as little or less risk than you would with pharmaceutical drugs, including over the counter medicine.

Are Pharmaceuticals safer? No way! Isn't that where Thalidomide came from? See our page on DHEA.

It is very hard to make comparisons because the reaction to or side effects of prescription drugs are more likely to be reported because of the infrastructure imposed by the institutions, but in America alone the number of deaths as a consequence of side effects of pharmaceutical medicine is higher in one year than that of AIDS, crime or road fatalities.

Herbal medicine and remedies have been around for years, hundreds of years and even thousands of years. During that time trial and error has created a huge knowledge base, which should give enough information to ensure that herbal treatments are safe. You are only at risk to the extent of the knowledge you do not have.

Here are some guidelines:
Know your herb - read up about it before you use it (and take care, there are many books for instance that says that ingesting Comfrey is safe - Culpepper did a lot to identify many of the herbs but the fiction he wrote about their efficacy and safety was to a large extent fiction and many so called experts do not know that).
Make sure that you identify the herb properly, when dried they tend to all look the same.
Start with a minimum dosage.
Monitor reactions
Be aware of allergic reactions
Do not give to children under the age of four and err on the side of caution under 12
If you are pregnant or breast feeding be paranoid and ensure that all medication is safe for both of you (not just herbs). Most herbs are not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers.
If you are taking any medication consult your doctor before adding to it (this also applies to medication other than herbs)
Stop taking the remedy the moment you detect signs of nausea (nausea is one of the first noticeable symptoms of toxicity)
Tell you doctor what you are taking, particularly before any treatment or surgery.

On the Beneforce pages I try to give you as much information as I can and will certainly highlight dangers or side effects if I am aware of them at the time of writing, but I cannot accept the responsibility for the completeness of the data I provide. As science is taking a greater interest in herbal medicinal effects more information is constantly added and it is impossible to keep up to date on the two thousand or more medicinal plants that are out there.

Also read our Dosage page

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* Statements made have not been evaluated by American Food and Drug Authority or similar board or authority of any other country.
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