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10 Things to Know Before Using Herbal Remedies

Updated on March 1, 2010

Herbal remedies can be a great alternative to prescription medication for a number of different ailments. You can use herbal remedies to cure common problems, aid in weight loss or even treat serious diseases. However, there are some things that you should be aware of before you start relying solely on herbal remedies for bettering your health.

Ten things that you should know before you start using herbal remedies:

1.     They aren’t generally monitored by the FDA. One core difference between a prescription medication and an herbal remedy is that a prescription medication must be approved by the FDA before it can go to the shelves. An herbal remedy does not have to get FDA approval. Herbal remedies fall under a category called dietary supplements rather than under a category of medication. For that reason, they aren’t checked out by the FDA. This means that they aren’t monitored for safety.

2.     No, not all herbal remedies are safe for you. You might be thinking that the FDA doesn’t need to check out your herbal remedies because they are herbal which means that they are natural which means that they are safe. Think again. Just consider all of the things out there in nature that can make us sick (like bad mushrooms!) This will help you to understand why being an herbal cure doesn’t automatically mean that something is a safe cure. Although many herbal remedies are safe, there are some that have various side effects that can impact how you feel in both the short-term and the long-term. The FDA does sometimes issue warnings about herbal ingredients that have been shown to be unsafe (even though they don’t give a seal approval to safe ingredients) so check the history of herbal cures before you use them to make sure that they are safe.

3.     The amount of your herbal ingredient can determine results. In other words, taking an herbal supplement that contains only a small amount of the effective ingredient isn’t going to produce results. This is important to know because a lot of herbal drug manufacturers list their ingredients but don’t tell you how much of each ingredient is in the product. You need to purchase supplements with amounts included if you want all of the important information for taking these products.

4.     Reviews of these products aren’t always accurate. There are many, many, many websites out there devoted to reviewing herbal remedies. However, a lot of these websites are actually operated by the people who are selling the products. Their information and reviews are not necessarily accurate. Look carefully at the source of any reviews before you take them to heart.

5.     Herbal remedies have varying results. It’s important to note that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Herbal remedies can be very successful for one person and then have no impact on another. It can take awhile to find the right combination of herbal remedies that works for you. Also note that some people have allergic reactions to particular ingredients which obviously counteracts the benefits of the cure.

6.     Herbal remedies may (or may not) be cheaper than prescription medications. As a general rule, it is going to be cheaper to get herbal remedies than to get prescription medications. However, this depends on a number of different variables. Some types and brands of herbal cures can be expensive. Plus, some people have good health care prescription insurance so they might be able to get affordable medications, something that’s not going to be covered when getting herbal remedies instead. These are just factors to think about as you start to consider using herbal remedies.

7.     Storage can affect the potency of herbal remedies. Just like with your prescription medication, your herbal remedies need to be properly stored to be most effective. Storage information can typically be found on the label of herbal supplements or you can look it up online. Keeping medications in moderate temperatures and out of direct sunlight are common things that you can do to prolong their life span.

8.     Doctors cannot recommend herbal remedies. Even if your doctor is interested in herbal remedies, he or she is not supposed to recommend these options to you. This goes back to the fact that the herbal remedies are not approved by the FDA. Doctors need to recommend products that do have FDA approval. For that reason, your doctor isn’t likely to be much help when it comes to finding and using herbal remedies.

9.     You still need a doctor. Even though your doctor can’t actually recommend your use of herbal remedies, he or she still plays an important role in your health care. You still want to get checked out by a doctor regularly to monitor the progress of your conditions and your overall health. You might also want to consider getting the assistance of an alternative health professional who has specific knowledge of using herbal remedies to treat the ailments that afflict you.

10. Herbal remedies are generally only one part of a holistic approach to healing. The most important thing to understand about herbal remedies is that the mindset surrounding their use differs from that of the prescription medication mindset. You don’t just take an herbal pill and expect to be cured. Instead, your herbal cure is just one change that you’ll make; other changes include bodywork, exercise, diet, and stress management techniques.


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