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Everything You Need to Know When Deciding to Use Herbal or Natural Remedies

Updated on July 19, 2010

The study and use of plants/plant extracts has helped people heal, even save lives, before prescription medications were on the map and before western medicine dominated. Traditional rememdies assist with the invention of new cures, future prescription drugs and treatments. Many drugs and life-saving treatments evolved from a certain element in nature that was studied and found to have healing properties and potential. It is clear, nature is the number one healer, and number one choice for many to seek when ill, but it is not always a miracle.

It takes more than common sense to heal the natural way. What you need to know: you really have to be smarter than the average Joe to administer a self-healing regimen or just to walk down the supplement aisle of your local health food store. First, you have to be knowlegeable about research itself before you can obtain reliable data, and you want to obtain validity and reliability before you mess with your health. Research/studies of herbal remedies are full of bias, politics, other off-topic distractions, misleading labels and unsupported claims.

  • Don't rely on labels and claims- they are merely advertisements. Think about it, are they really going to tell you the negatives about the product.
  • Magazines and many online sources are bias and trying to make money too. They can, however, give you clues where to seek other, more reliable sources. Even crappy info can be helpful to know what you don't want.

Wisdom is associated with natural cures. They come from years and years of collecting and testing kowledge. Getting to know yourself is wise before implementing something natural into your regimen.

  • Do know your health status- if you want to use herbal remedies exclusively, it is still wise to seek a status/check-up of your health from a regular Doctor. Many studies have shown the combination is optimal, but it is hard to find a doctor that will work with and monitor your natural regimen.
  • If you are on prescription medication and other natural supplements, they do have potentially harmful side effects when mixed. Research, and even ask a doctor or pharmacist, about interactions. Always tell your doctor EVERYTHING you are taking (even natural).The word about this is definitely getting out, but you'd be sruprised how many fall prey to drug (natural included) interactions
  • Pregnant and nursing warnings: For instance, my doctor was absolutely right to warn me for all the presrciption drugs that shouldn't be taken while trying to conceive or already pregnant, there are just as many natural supplements that shouldn't be taken either. For example, I read a very popular hub on hubpages about natural remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis (which I have) suggesting Boswellia and Cat's Claw, a well-known natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, for people with RA. Problem is this herb is not good to take if you are trying to or already pregant. The hubber did not give any warnings about this and that's fine, but that is why people need to do their research and not take one or a few sources as the gospel. Information is out there EVERYWHERE, but good information is hard to find.
  • Where do you live? I grew up near many Indian Reservations and learned early on that American Indians do not tolerate alcohol the same way we do. Why? Because it was not introduced to them until late in their ancestery compared to Western Europeans, therefore alcoholism is high among American Indians. My point; a lot of herbal remedies come from other countries and you'll often see "this product has been helping people in China for decades". Countries that have been using ingredients in these products have been raised on them for decades and it is literally in their blood and biology. There is a tolerance factor here that is very important.

Remember our systems will tolerate and react to different things than someone from somewhere else in the world. Another example of this is food allergies and intolerances- why do you think that African Americans have a higher intolerance to dairy than a Western European?

Research 101: Even supplement companies, homeopaths, and health food stores are most conerned about #1; making money. I constantly hear people complain about pharmaceutical companies out to make a buck. Yep, they are guilty and so are natural product companies. Sorry, no politics or conspiracy theories here. Just the bottom line.

Individual testimonies, online especially, usually lead to a product endorsement. I joined an online community for my specific illness and right away I was bombarded with natural product pushers. Talk about getting irritated by drug reps, well, these people are the same. Do not take any individual advice from someone who does not have your specific ailment. Individual testimonies are just that; individual. The one caveat to ALL medicine, natural or not, is indivudual results may vary.

Placebo effect; this is a good and bad thing. Bad- it skews results of studies. Good- it shows the mind-body connection is powerful and there is hope for healing without ANYTHING. I believe natural products have a fighting chance in the healing system mostly because of the placebo effect- this isn't a bad thing so don't take it wrong. I am all for someone healing just because they think a certain product will heal them. But beware of this effecting many of the research results you will read about. If the research study acknowledged or controlled for placebo effect, then that is a great source you've found.

The more you research, the smarter you will get about good and bad sources. Don't make any judgments and quick decisions without doing hours of research. i prefer books so I can check where that person got their sources and check their credentials, etc.

FDA's role: Herbal remedies are not FDA approved Many have speculations about this but the FDA cannot clearly define them- food or drug? The FDA does get involved and pulls many health products from shelves. Back in the 90's I took a health and energy claiming supplement called Ephedra (a natural substance made from botanicals). Well if you don't already know, it was linked to several deaths and harmful effects and ultimately banned. I got it in a health food store and took it for 2 months and ended up stopping because I was suffering from horrible anxiety attacks and irregular heartbeat. HGH (human growth hormone)- take at your own risk, but it would make sense that this also sounds healthy- some people benefit and ohers certainly do not.

Recently FDA is throwing around cautions related to drinking Kombucha Tea. Many people are saying why now and for what reason when I feel so healthy drinking it? We think Kombucha is something new to our country, but it's been around for a while and several people complained of ill efects about it back in the 90's. The concern right now is mostly about the alcohol content, but because it is a fermented product, it could have potential risks to those it might throw off the ph balance in their system- just one of the possibilities. Many ill effects come from people who already have health problems, but those people need good reliable health products the most. I believe Kombucha might be ok for already healthy people , and then I argue that if you're already healthy, why spend the money on Kombucha? People with ill health have to be extra careful with health/natural products.

People are trying to make their own Kombucha tea and this is another hazard because, like I said before, it takes a good deal of intelligence to administer natural remedies.

Dosage:You'd be suprised by how many supplements and natural remedies are on the market and sold with a pre-determined dosage that is not usually enough to make a significant difference. Often you need large quantities of a specific herb, etc to have an effect For example, cherry is great for arthritis, but to keep on a decent regimen, it would cost me about $20 a week for cherry capsules at a fairly minimal dosage- eek!

Boosting the immune system. Sounds good, but actually potentially harmful: This almsot falls into the category of not trusting labels and claims. Boosting the immune system is the newest catch phrase I am so sick of hearing. Do we want immune boosting? Concerning autoimmune illnesses like RA and lupus, the immune system is already overreactive. Immune boosting remedies would be harmful for these people. Actually there is some evidence to support that autoimmune illnesses are paritally caused by and on the rise because our immune systems are overboosted. We are overly clean and disinfected people who would do better to boost their immune system by playing in the dirt.

One last note: Try working with food and diet before going out and buying herbals and supplements. Food is a very powerful drug and medicine. Food intolerance diets are best to test. Wouldn't it be great it you could simply adjust your diet and be relieved of symptoms. You can, it's not a far stretch in the realm of possibilities and it's worth a try. Plus it's much cheaper than any medicine.

I hope everything I've provided for you gives you a heads up about how to do smart research, be a smart consumer, and make wise choices when it's concerning something as important as your health. I write this hub because I have a background in research (not herbal remedies though) and I have an illness that I am trying to beat with natural remedies so I am personally invested as well.


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    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

      thanks so much bmcoll3278! It's taken me years to decipher the products out there.

    • bmcoll3278 profile image

      bmcoll3278 5 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

      Very good info I am big into supplements

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      George~ Research is so important. Knowing how to find credible sources. So many people go into a doctor's office and believe everything they are sold. They take medications and don't question a thing. Thank you for stopping by to comment.

    • profile image

      George Macdonald 6 years ago

      I found your article most illuminating.I have a deep seated distrust of Medicoes in general look, how many diseases they have no cures for,and the medicine industry invent diseases faster than we can catch them.

      I agree the most important skill is to listen to your body,feel its symptoms and research.With diet and exercise I control my type 2 diabetes and onset TB.This diagnoses I am very doubtful of.

      I believe the most helpful thing is a good dose of skepticism and research,research,research.

      Good health everyone.

    • celeBritys4africA profile image

      celeBritys4africA 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I like how you wrote this hub. Very interesting. One vote up.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thank you so much RTalloni- this is part many years of research and personal experience.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Bravo and well-done! Need I say more? Oh, thanks!

      Hope to see that you have many readers for this is important information.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thank you Nikitha p.

    • nikitha p profile image

      nikitha p 7 years ago from India

      great hub! I liked it.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      buyjyoti~ I've always been healthy- raised that way. Most people I talked to who have Rheumatoid Arthritis and other immunity illnesses were also very healthy people before too so it's just a weird disease. I am experimenting with my diet and funny you should mention your vegetarian because I am seriously considering this, except I love fish and fish is good for arthritis so I will be veggie except for eating fish. I need to find a new homeopath- I went to one and she was very bad- did not help me much. I do a lot of my own research too so I can be informed.

      McDonalds is horrible. I haven't eaten fast food in a long time and hardly ever throughout my life. I am glad you are still health conscious even with the invading Mcdonalds in India.

      THank you, as always, for your kind words

    • boyjyoti profile image

      boyjyoti 7 years ago

      Yes yes yes... knowing your own body. It is you who can sure shot tell what your body wants and what it will reject more than anyone else. As far as I am concerned, leave alone stomach upsets, I refuse to visit the physician once during having a 'food poisoning' kind of situation. It was the fear of being 'admitted'. What I tried was a lot of lemons squeezed in water and nothing else for the first 24 hours. No solid or liquid food. I starved myself. Then the body had to digest even that 'poison' in order to survive and it did exactly. Some of the ginger juice also helped. I was cured 80% with that only. Here are people go running to have an 'opinion' on slightest of stomach-ache.

      Avoid outside stuff, avoid junk food as much as you can, walk as much as you can, exercise as regularly as you can and you are the fittest on planet. Have natural food and the clean one. Vegetarian is still better. I just turned veggie. McDonald junkies have made most Americans fat and now doing that in India too. Temptation is too much but it should be left for 'once in a blue moon'. We have to be greatly will-powered to prove that we are better than that dog at least.

      regarding you rheumatism I would suggest that there is nothing better than Homeopathy. There is a sure and permanent treatment for such things. Make sure that the physician is adequately qualified and experienced. God bless you and my heart feels sad and goes all for you getting more than cured.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      silvergenes~ thanks. I've done very personal research. I think when you live it and not just prescribe it or reccommend it, you get a little more involved about the consequences. If i can help myself with or without certain food first, then that's the most natural way I can think of. I get irritated by what is considered "natural". I never knew about orthomolecular medicine- interesting. Your comment was insightful and I'm surprised I found someone to agree with me on some of what I've stated in the hub. Thanks again.

      boyjyoti~ thanks for stopping by. You are so right that there are certain mindsets about natural or unnatural/prescription medicine. Allopaths 9like our western doctors) do not like homeopaths either. Truth is natural cures can do as much damage too. Wouldn't it be great if we just knew our own bodies enough to know exacly what we needed to help us. I know this sounds strange to compare it to, but when my dog has eaten something bad, he instinctively knows to go at grass and puke up the bad stuff, then he feels fine. Instead, we humans, go to someone elsefor OUR body.

    • boyjyoti profile image

      boyjyoti 7 years ago

      Well I am surprised to hear about diseases caused by too much immunity. I think Indians are more immune than Americans because there are many conditions that even the elite Indians have to face or things they intake unwillingly which can make them sick.

      If at all you intake something herbal and then complain of some medical problem, the physician will simply slap you on face that why did you try it in the first place. It is a tendency that Allopaths do not and cannot stand homeoepaths, who it turn hate Ayurved (herbal) so on and so forth. These are mainly business considerations as well as due to mindsets also.

      There is a saying that every Indian knows, "Neem hakeem khatraye jaan!" which funnily means that the self-styled 'Natural herbs physicians' are dangers for your very existence. So my advice is, during as delicate stage as pregnancy, avoid anything that you are not sure of.

    • profile image

      SilverGenes 7 years ago

      I have rarely read such an excellent and comprehensive article on natural health as this one. This should be read by everyone seeking ANY kind of treatment. I also agree with you about the power of food - there is an entire field of medicine called orthomolecular medicine that is based on this principal. Supplements are often as overused as pharmaceuticals but most people don't realize it. They work for a reason - they alter our chemistry. I am adamantly opposed to legislating the natural health industry so we will all have to pay drug companies for our vitamins, but common sense and research are essential. We must all become an expert on our own situation.