Herbal Medicines – Are They Safe?
There is a huge misconception. Or say, myths spread all over around. I have met a great number of people in my life bragging about the herbal medicines they had started using just recently or have been doing so for a certain period of time.
They actually seem to have a strong misconception that herbal medicines are harmless, having no side effects or are completely safe to use whenever and for whatever period of time. Or simply they are quite afraid of applying the tablet, capsule or injection kind of things on their SOPHISTICATED self. And then, of course, you probably wouldn’t want to tell people that you really are ON MEDICATION. Instead, you are interested in using a “Natural Treatment”, thereby allowing you to count yourself out of the list of on-medication-patient kind of people.
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The reasons why I suggest people not to take herbs or plants for any medical condition are mentioned below.
Herbal Medicines are not free from Side Effects
It is commonly spread that herbs are a “NATURAL WAY” of treating diseases. So anything that is natural, must not be having any side effects at all. This rumor actually arises from every tablet-phobic mindset. There are several things you should know:
Plants are the major source of all active drugs we find on earth. Synthetic drugs are also prepared using natural compounds or the compounds that mimic the activity of natural compounds. The tablets, injections, capsules or any other dosage form is actually just the finest possible form of the drug that is sufficiently safe enough to be used for the treatment of diseases.
So, logically, any herb or natural medicine that is able to cure your problem can also be harmful enough to produce sufficient amount of side effects. It is because of the fact that natural medicines are in the parent form, from which pharmaceuticals may be prepared.
Several crude medicinal plants such as Rauwolfia serpentina (commonly known as asrol or chhoti chandan here in Pakistan) is used for lowering high blood pressure. It is, however, an effective drug which should not simply be treated as a home remedy as such. Though it is a natural form of a drug but it bears a bundle of side effects as any other drug does.
Likewise, sandalwood used for several purposes such as common cold, an expectorant or even as an antihypertensive agent, can sometimes be too much harmful to kidney or even cause kidney failure if taken for a long time. This should be clarified with a special emphasis that natural medicines are not “simply remedies”.
Herbal Medicines are impure
While it is known that a herb is a crude form of any drug from which a medicinal compound (pharmaceutically active compound) is obtained. There are hundreds of thousands of physical impurities present in any type and part of a plant from which an active pharmaceutical ingredient is obtained.
Though it may, at times, seem quite easier and more effective to use herbal medicines. But there may be a variety of health risks related to a continuous and uncontrolled use of medicinal plants.
Proper Drug Dose is not Possible
Crude drugs have a variety of unexamined and unanalyzed amounts of different compounds present except the one which is required to produce a therapeutic effect for any disease whatsoever. Thus, the actual amount of drug required for producing desired effects cannot be calculated.
Herbal Alternatives Usually Have a Better Food Alternative
Herbal medicines that you use may just be a money eating machine that you use without knowing the fact that the food alternative may be cheaper and more effective.
For example, Psyllium husk (or ispaghol ka chilka) normally used for digestive problems and chronic constipation is simply one out of many food sources of soluble and insoluble fiber.
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The main mechanism of action of psyllium husk for relieving constipation can be achieved by normal fiber-rich meal containing fruits and vegetables.
I am personally not interested in disappointing you or making you disregard the actual effects of medicinal plants. There are several effective, safe and natural home remedies that should equally be used as they have been. For example, people have been using tea extract of mint leaves for digestion problems, nausea, and even for common colds. Or ginger and garlic as heartburn remedies. There is no harm using them.
In fact, one should always be aware of such home-relieving techniques in several conditions such as nausea, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and so on. While, serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, hyperlipidemia etc should be properly treated by a relevant doctor. One should be clearly aware of the fact that self-medication or improper treatment plan can cause harmful effects on health. Or sometimes, even lead to death.