I watched yet another news blurb today about herbal remedies. I view them with mixed emotions, a lot of the time they are either totally inaccurate or taken out of context. This one was well done and says exactly what I have been saying. Some herbs require specialist knowledge to be safe, many herbs can interact with prescription medications and you should always discuss any supplements you might want to take with your doctor.
St. John’s Wort: This is a very useful herb, but not one to be taken without some consideration. Severe depression and those with bipolar should not use it, but rely on whatever your doctor prescribes. The other problem is that it can interact with a lot of other medications. While today’s news report just mentioned heart medications quite rightly there are other significant interactions. Sedatives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and anything that can cause drowsiness will interact.
Ginkgo Biloba: Those with memory problems, particularly if it is caused by dementia may find some help from this herb. Students like it, because it may improve thinking thus improving studying and the results of test taking. PMS, glaucoma and some problems for diabetics may also be improved.
There is a downside. Ginkgo is a blood thinner. An increased risk of bruising occurs in everyone, but if you have a clotting disorder, or if you take medications that thin the blood, you may have problems with this herb. Diabetics, people with seizure disorders and those trying to get pregnant could also develop problems due to this herb.
Aloe Vera: If you have a burn, this is the go-to plant. Whether it’s from cooking or the sun, minor burns are easily soothed by the gel of this succulent. However, a lot of people drink the juice. Frankly, I feel this is a really bad idea for two reasons. First, this plant is strongly laxative. Not in the good “gee I’m a touch constipated” way. In the “move into the bathroom for a prolonged stay” way.
Some people are lucky and don’t have many symptoms. The nature of the alkaloid, however, tends to lead one to gripe, gas, bloating and a lot of pain.
The second reason is that its a member of the lily family. All plants in this family affect the heart, and aloe is no different. In most people, it could be fine, but for those with heart conditions, it could be disastrous.
Echinacea: This herb is so common nowadays that people don’t even think before popping a tablet or capsule. In fact, many medical people even “pooh-pooh” any benefits it might have. I don’t believe that they’re as sanguine about what it does, though. The precautions and interactions suggest it must do something.
It is recommended that those with a healthy immune system use some care with this supplement. You can take it for up to two weeks, but after that, at least one week should pass before resuming. If you have an immune disorder, you should not use echinacea. Also, if you have to take immune suppressants, it’s a bad idea.
Goldenseal: This is a herb with an identity crisis. It knows what it does, but many people don’t. It is often paired with echinacea with the mistaken belief it is good for improved immune function. Not so. No, this herb is best used for digestive problems.
That’s not why it’s in this article. Goldenseal has a hidden menace. If you take a statin, whether it’s prescription (Lipitor, Crestor, etc.) or herbal (red yeast rice), pairing it with goldenseal could be deadly and will damage your muscles.
Herbs are a wonderful creation and can do a lot of good. If used improperly, they can also do a lot of bad.