Using Herbs Safely - Part 1

Updated: May 16, 2019

It’s important to be informed about any kind of supplement or herb we take internally. All too often I hear of people who either refuse to try an herbal remedy out of fear, or people who use those herbs incorrectly out of ignorance. You don’t need to study herbalism for years to be able to use them effectively, but you do need to do some research, or speak with a natural health advisor before you take any supplement, especially if you are also taking prescription medication.

Here are some general safety rules to consider when using herbs.

1. Read about the herb before you take it. Please don’t just take the advice of friends or, worse yet, strangers on Facebook. Know when the information is part of a company’s marketing material and find other sources that contain studies and advice from health care providers instead. There are many slick sales ads out there trying to sell natural supplements, and it’s more important now than ever to know who to trust.

2. Check for warnings associated with that herb or supplement. Some warnings will concern pregnant or nursing women, young children or interactions with certain medications or food. This is where speaking with an herbalist can really be beneficial. An herbalist can also suggest trusted supplement companies.

3. The newest herb is not always the best one. Thanks to the Internet, many people jump on the herbal bandwagon, sometimes by believing that new packaging from a hot new supplement company somehow means that their health is dependent on pills, powders or patches instead of healthier personal choices. Certainly, some of these companies are better than others, but all of them should be researched by the consumer before using.

4. Tell your doctor about any herbal supplement you are taking. Your personal physician must know your list of supplements before he or she can safely prescribe medication and/or operate. Most doctors will ask that you discontinue herbal use before you have surgery, sometimes up to two weeks before.

5. Essential oils should be used with caution. Since the explosion of popularity of essential oils, I’ve heard countless stories of misuse from the hilarious to the regrettable. Essential oils are not home fragrances and should never be used as such. In fact, there can be serious side effects from constant use of essential oils in the home, from headache to breathing issues. Most oils should be diluted with a safe carrier oil when used topically and extreme caution should considered for internal use. Essential oils should never be used during chemotherapy treatment as certain oils can make chemo drugs stronger.

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