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Updated 26 May 2014

The dangers of herbs

Although herbs are generally safe with very few side effects, one should be responsible and careful when using any herb.

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Some herbs can have dangerous interactions with conventional medications, so if you are on any medications, consult a professional doctor, herbalist or naturopath first before you start any herbal treatment.

If you do react badly to a herbal remedy, stop taking it immediately and seek professional help.

How to use herbs safely

  • Over-the-counter herbs are generally safe.
  • If you are harvesting herbs from the wild, you have to know exactly what herb it is that you are collecting.
  • Make sure that you use the correct part of the plant.
  • Match the correct herb to the condition that you want to treat.
  • Stick to well-known herbs, with minimal side effects.
  • Check if the herb has been prepared properly.
  • Always tell your health-care professional what conventional medication or herbal remedy you are on.
  • If you are on any prescribed medication, seek professional advice before using any herbal remedy.
  • Some herbs can trigger allergic reactions, so if you are allergy-prone visit a qualified herbalist before taking any herb.

Take note of the following dangerous interactions:

  • The most common dangerous interactions between herbs and conventional medicine happen in people that are using anticoagulants (blood thinning) drugs like Warfarin and Heparin.
  • Certain herbs like Gingko biloba and Chinese angelica enhance the blood thinning activity of anticoagulants thereby increasing someone's risk of internal and external bleeding.
  • St. John's wort: if you are taking antibiotics, anti-epileptics, immune-suppressants or anti-depressants you should not take St. John's wort as it can reduce the effectiveness of the other drugs.
 
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