One of the herbal safety factors we find ourselves having to remind customers of most often is that “just because it’s natural doesn’t make it safe.” There’s this assumption that natural automatically means safe, because why wouldn’t it be?
It’s not created in some lab where it’s exposed to numerous contaminates and it isn’t a highly concentrated chemical that can be lethal. Isn’t that the point of natural products? Aren’t they supposed to be a safe alternative?
Yes and no. A plant doesn’t need to be considered highly poisonous to be dangerous. There are several factors to consider when talking about herbal safety:
Several everyday herbs can become very dangerous when used improperly. Dandelions are an incredibly effective treatment for many issues and can help detoxify the liver. At the same time, it can cause liver damage if you take too large a dose, or you take it for an extended period of time.
Parsley is another great example of an herb no-one would consider dangerous, but it can be. Parsley is a diuretic and if the medicinal remedy is misused, it can cause dehydration and other potentially serious issues.
You also need to consider who will be taking the herb. Human or animal? Herbs that are safe for humans are not necessarily safe for animals, or even different animals. Just because something is natural doesn’t make it safe. A bear is natural, but I wouldn’t cuddle up with one either!
Determining the right dosage herbal remedies can also be difficult. It’s easy to make a tincture or infusion for yourself, but can you be certain of the dosage you’re getting? Unless you’re measuring everything carefully and following an herbalist’s recipe, it’s really easy to make a mistake. Not to mention, how do you know what the right dose is for the issue?
When it comes down to herbal safety, there’s also a difference in dosages between men and women, adults and children, and varying illnesses. What is safe for one person may not be safe for the next. You need to ensure that you know the proper dosages and whether or not it’s safe for the intended person.
Another potential safety issue with herbal remedies can be drug interactions. Regardless of the fact that it’s a natural medicine, it still has an effect on the body. Every action has an equal or greater reaction. The chemical reaction caused by herbal remedies in the body can seriously interact with other medications you’re taking—including vitamins and other herbal supplements.
Everything that you put into your body has a potential reaction with everything else you put into it. Sticking with the parsley example, if you’re taking medications that are processed by the kidneys and liver, parsley can completely alter how your body processes those medications. Not to mention that it can also thin your blood, and if you’re taking blood thinners, this can cause other serious consequences.
It is incredibly important to understand how herbs can affect the body and how they can interact with each individual system and whatever else you’re putting into it. Just because something is natural does not make it safe.
If you’re interested in using a natural remedy, make herbal safety a priority. Consult your doctor, talk to a certified herbalist and do the research. If you’re not sure if it’s safe, don’t use it.
For more information on herbal remedies and how to take them, please contact us.