There are many natural remedies that are quite safe and effective for treating a variety of ailments. The vast majority of herbs commonly available on the market from reputable sellers are perfectly safe for most people. Pregnant or nursing women and those with health conditions should consult a doctor or herbalist before taking any herbal remedy.
Likewise, if you combine conventional medical treatment with herbal treatment, make sure you tell your doctor all the herbs (as well as vitamins and minerals) that you are taking. Some herbs contain compounds that are similar to those in prescription drugs, since, after all, that’s where the ideas for prescription drugs originally came from. So you shouldn’t, for instance, take valerian and Valium, or really any barbiturates, sedatives or antidepressants.
Still, there are some herbs that are obvious no-nos for everyone. Hemlock, for instance, is a poison that can easily be fatal. Jimsonweed, which has been used in the past to treat asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis, can also be a fatal poison. Hellebore is another toxic herb; it is extremely narcotic and causes violent vomiting. Obviously you won’t find any of these on the shelves at your local herb seller.
Potentially Harmful Herbs.
Some herbs you may be able to find for sale, but that doesn’t mean you should use them. Wormwood, which used to be used to make the drink Absinthe, is supposed to help with gastrointestinal problems, but it also causes hallucinations and regular users are prone to violent behavior. Many people are also allergic to wormwood.
Rue is another problematic herb. It’s been used through the years for all sorts of things, from aiding menstrual problems and circulatory disorders to treating sprains and hysteria. It can cause severe liver and kidney damage, and was once used as a chemical means of abortion, often with fatal results to mother as well as child. Even when it doesn’t kill people it can cause melancholy, sleep disorders and dizziness. Does that sound like something you want to put in your body?
Other herbs that are for sale fall under the category of potentially dangerous. People who take them may have no side effects, or they may have very serious side effects that can be fatal. Take Ephedra, for instance. Also known as ma huang, this herb has been used for thousands of years, particularly as a treatment for asthma, colds and flu.
Ephedrine, a compound found in ephedra, increases the metabolic rate, so it became a popular additive to diet pills in the 1990s. Several deaths have been blamed on the used of such pills, mostly when ephedra is broken down into its chemical components instead of being used as a whole herb. Countless people through the centuries have taken whole-herb ephedra with no health risk, but for others the chemical compounds can be fatal.
Bitter orange is a similar herb that is often used as a substitute for ephedrine. Like ephedrine, bitter orange is a stimulant that can raise blood pressure and increase risk of heart attack.
Harmful to Liver?
Many herbs have a potential for causing liver damage, including chaparral (sometimes used to promote healthy skin), comfrey (used to ease pain and inflammation), skullcap (a sleep aid and relaxant) and kava (a sedative popularly used in diet supplements).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, following the lead of Canada, Germany, Switzerland and others, has even issued a warning about kava (also known as kava-kava) causing liver-related injuries. These herbs may be fine for most people, but you might want to check with your doctor or an herbalist before taking these herbs if you have a history of liver problems.
The bottom line is, if you don’t have experience with an herb and find mixed reviews about an herb online or in your favorite herbal source books, please consult with a knowledgeable herb dealer, herbalist or doctor before consuming an herb. Again, the vast majority of herbs commonly available on the market are perfectly safe for most people to take, but this is a case where you are truly better safe than sorry.
Wishing you good health and happiness