Herbal Supplements: General Info
Herbal supplements have gained recent popularity for several reasons. Some people believe that they are a more "natural" form of dietary supplement, as opposed to vitamin or mineral supplements in pill form. Unfortunately, this is a very superficial view of both herbal and other supplements. The main benefit of vitamin and mineral supplements is that they are certified to be pure by the Federal government, which has enacted laws that strictly regulate the formulation and marketing of such supplements. On the other hand, herbal supplements are classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "foods"; thus, they are not required to pass the stringent tests that non-food supplements must pass. The result is that herbal supplements do not have to meet any set standard for purity, nor must they post a declaration of their contents and amounts of active ingredients.
Do not mix and match herbal supplements and prescribed medications
Herbal supplements have been used for thousands of years by oriental practitioners, especially those in China. There is much to be said in favor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). However, it should be noted that the Eastern and Western medical systems are very different and one cannot mix and match between them when deciding on a personal supplementation program. There have been many documented cases of serious illness or even death resulting from contrary reactions between herbal supplements and prescribed over the counter medications. One example is the herbal supplement known as Ephedra, which has been implicated in the deaths of several professional athletes.
Taken as part of an holistic cure
The medicinal herbs used in herbal supplements often contain dozens, even hundreds of different chemicals and ingredients. This makes it very difficult to ascertain which of these ingredients is providing the desired effect, or even if the effect is obtained through the action of one or many chemicals in combination. Holistic practitioners often prescribe herbal supplements as part of a holistic cure. The effects of the herb may not be noticed directly, and their benefits may not be felt for a long period of time. This may cause some people to take too much of an herbal supplement, which may lead to a host of negative side effects. Herbal supplements can be very beneficial, but people should realize that they are not foods to be eaten casually. Holistic practitioners and TCM doctors can offer good advice on not only what herbal supplements are appropriate for your ailments, but how to take them.