Natural. It means something beneficial, right? A friend recommends a vitamin supplement because you’re feeling a little sluggish, you just don’t have any energy. Or you’re searching the drugstore shelves for something over-the-counter for those nights when you can’t get to sleep, something natural, something that doesn’t require a doctor’s appointment or time spent waiting for a prescription to be filled.
We tend to think we’re safe in using “natural” products for minor ailments. After all, herbs are organic, vitamin and mineral supplements are beneficial, sold to us at our choice. But never before have we had so many choices, and we often accept the promise of better health just from the words on the package of a well-advertised product offering faster relief or a stronger metabolism.
But what if you’re one of the millions of people who take prescription medications? Do you know the possible consequences of taking those prescribed medications with over-the-counter herbal or mineral preparations? Do the benefits outweigh the dangers?
Natural Remedies and Dietary Supplements
Over the past several decades, drugstore and nutrition-center customers have seen an ever-expanding selection of natural remedies and dietary supplements that promise certain healing properties. Even doctors and other healthcare professionals are recommending alternative medicines, though cautiously and with careful monitoring, as viable treatments for minor ailments or good health maintenance.
With so many healthcare choices, it is especially important for natural remedy users to exercise educated judgment when choosing products for self-medicating, but especially if you are also taking prescription medicines. Many low-budget manufacturers of herbal supplements don’t always warn of prescription/herbal interactions, although concerned, reputable companies produce stringently-researched preparations and provide comprehensive information and advisories on their packages stating that the product is “not marketed for diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of disease”, in accordance with the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.
If you are considering using any of the alternative products on the market, remember that dietary supplements often contain multiple herbs, vitamins, or minerals, any one of which might interfere with prescription drugs.
Be aware of the potential for herbal supplements
To safely and effectively use alternative medicines, you must be aware of the potential for herbal supplements to interact with your prescriptions or even other over-the-counter medications. In certain combinations, the consequences of mixing supplements and doctor-prescribed therapies can cause serious medical emergencies. Some herbs alone, just like many pharmaceutical drugs, can produce a number of adverse reactions in some people. High doses and multiple products used concurrently with prescription or over-the-counter treatments can create toxic levels, or even cancel out, the purposes of your prescription drugs. Others increase the effects of prescriptions, which might sound beneficial, but more often is not.
Alone, or in combination with pharmaceutical drugs, herbal use should always be monitored by a medical professional. Mixing supplements with traditional medications can be deadly.
We have many healthcare choices these days, with more on the research horizon. Scientific studies are suggesting that certain “natural” remedies, in closely controlled doses, might be the wonder drugs of tomorrow.
But the facts aren’t all in, and it’s wise to educate yourself to the “natural” market to make sure you know the consequences as well as the benefits of using herbal supplement products.