A common misconception is that all herbal remedies and plant based medicines are always safer due to the fact that they are completely “natural", and pose little, if any health risks. While most medicinal plants are very safe, there are always risk factors to think about before choosing the appropriate remedy.
Medications & Botanical Therapies
Many plants may interact with commonly prescribed medications and prescription drugs. It is possible they may potentiate a drug, making it stronger, or delay absorption making it less effective or not effective. Some herbs and drugs have an antagonistic effect, meaning they have opposing actions on the body. There are also unknown interactions that may occur. If you are on any medications you should always talk to your doctor before trying any complementary herbal medicines or preparations.
A contraindication is any reason why a particular plant or remedy would not be appropriate for a certain individual. This can include medication interactions, but also other health risk factors, such as high blood pressure, blood sugar issues, or psychological tendencies. Take extra care when choosing herbal preparations if you have any serious health concern.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant speak to your doctor BEFORE using any botanical remedies.
Although most common medicinal plants are quite safe, when taking high doses or with long term use there are naturally occurring plant chemicals that can have an accumulative effect on the body or certain organ systems.
Plant properties, actions, and phytochemicals are important to consider when deciding appropriate dosage, extraction methods and duration of use.
An unfortunate truth about the herbal remedy industry is the common adulteration and mislabeling of herbs, especially rare, difficult to cultivate, and expensive plants. Sadly, even properly identified herbs are often contaminated with molds, pesticides, toxic metals or are irradiated. This not only reduces their benefit, but makes them potentially harmful. Choose organic, ethically wildcrafted, or grow your own if possible.
There are members of the plant kingdom that are medicinal, but should always be used with caution and have special considerations for use. Research as much as possible, and pay special attention when using remedies that include unfamiliar plants and formulas that contain multiple herbs. Never use wild-harvested plants without assurance of proper identification and purity.
Plants that can be deadly or cause bodily harm include…
Datura (Jimsonweed), Belladonna, Monkshod (Aconite) Hemlock, Holly, Castor Bean, Poinsetta, Foxglove, Oleander and Henbane. Never eat the leaf or stem of any plant in the Nightshade family, including Tomato, Potato, and Eggplant.
Plants that have medicinal potential but pose health risks if not used appropriately or for people with certain health conditions include…
Ephedra, Kava Kava, Lobelia, Pennyroyal, Cascara sagrada, Senna, Guarana, and Yohimbe
Plants that are more commonly used but have potential for accumulated toxicity or pose a moderate health risk to be aware of...
Chapparal, Comfrey, Borage, Valerian Root, Goldenseal, and Sassafras
This list does not include specific recommendations for avoiding botanical remedies when dealing with preexisting health conditions. When in doubt consult your doctor or a qualified clinical herbal practitioner …
Even mild herbs can be imbalancing to certain individuals, especially in high dosages. What is great medicine for one person may aggravate certain biological or biochemical interactions in another.