Herbal Medicine: Everything You Need to Know

Source: Yuko Hara

I have well and truly been sucked into the world of herbal remedies. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not something we can avoid anymore; we’re constantly being reminded whether by billboards, on the bus, TV adverts, social media, or even word of mouth, the list goes on. So I have taken it upon myself to source and test some more natural alternatives to help my body fight back to health. It appears, however, that just because the word ‘natural’ is used, that does not mean it’s safe for you to consume regularly.

Herbal medicines have a huge number of devoted followers and have certainly grown in popularity over the past two years. It wasn’t just the internet fuelling my desire to try the herbal route, as my friends were also talking about it and sharing stories of success, so of course I was sold. However, since opting for the natural route I have questioned both the effectiveness and safety of using herbal remedies on a regular basis.

As I mentioned, many people believe that products labelled ‘natural’ are always safe and therefore good for them. Sadly, this is not true as I recently discovered that many herbal medicines do not have to go through the official testing that most other drugs do. There are of course risks when obtaining fake, substandard or unlicensed medicines. So how do we ensure we are using them with the same care and respect as conventional medicines.

Side Effects

The side effects of herbal medicines are often dependant on the actual herbal remedy, which includes the dosage and levels of any other medication within the user’s body. I figured as it is fast becoming a growing trend we should all be more aware of the common side effects that come with digesting herbal alternatives. Many substances ingested into the human body can cause side effects. Rashes are often caused by food, and anyone suffering from lactose intolerance can vouch for that. Below are a few highlighted side effects to be aware of when using such medication.

Source: Klesta

Liver Inflammation

I’m sure you’ll all be aware of the very popular medication Echinacea, which is used by many as a traditional and alternative way to boost the human immune system and battle the horrible British cold. I can say that I have used Echinacea on many occasions and can remember it playing a huge role whenever I was ill as a child. So I was shocked to hear that Echinacea can cause inflammation to the liver when it interacts with certain pharmaceutical compounds. If you happen to also be an avid user of this medicine, be sure to note what other medicine you are putting into your body at the same time.

Sensitive Skin

If you have ever experienced periods of depression or anxiety, you may have heard about or used St. John’s Wort. It’s an incredibly common medication and has been spoken about widely on the internet. Many shared side effects, typically found in light skinned and fair-haired consumers, include extremely sensitive skin that’s easily burnt when in the sun. Thankfully this is very rare and can be easily cured by limiting the amount of time spent in the sun with the correct protection.

Similarly, herbal agents such as lavender oil and Tea Tree oil can cause rashes and skin irritation. In this instance, the best procedure is to apply a skin test prior to use. Simply place a little on the elbow, and on one arm only.

Lack of Energy

It’s important to bear in mind that everyone’s body is of course different; some people will be far more sensitive than others. Herbal alternatives used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia include herbs intended to relax and ease the body. In extreme cases consumers have reported experiencing intense sleepiness. It is so important that you consider this before taking herbs such as, chamomile, valerian and kava kava. All can cause the body to slow right drastically.

I hope this has been of use to you and furthers your understanding of herbal remedies and medication. Like any type of medication, always consult your doctor before acting or consuming. This article is purely to raise awareness for regular users and people looking to find alternative medication.