Word on Health

Word On Herbal Medicine Concerns

Our grateful thanks to the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) for their contribution to this week's report - Click here to visit their website  

Herbs are where today’s modern medicines began and in the right hands they can be hugely helpful and safe – but the key is ‘in the right hands’.  Since 2011 certain medical herbalists have been recognised as authorised healthcare professionals and measures have been taken to introduce Product Licence and Traditional Herbal Registration numbers which should be on the packaging of Western Herbal preparations offered for sale together with information as to what the medicine is for.

(Chinese Traditional Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine are growing in popularity but there are concerns over the quality of certain imported Chinese medicine preparations and the high levels of metals found in some Ayurvedic preparations. Also, a large number of practitioners working in the none Western Herbal Medicine field aren’t regulated, so it really is a case of ‘buyer beware’.)

There are a number of dangers to self-prescribing, including the side effects when mixed with prescription drugs which evidence shows few of uis are aware of.

Not knowing a person’s underlying medical condition and medication regime can turn a simple herbal remedy deadly.  Herbs, vitamins and minerals and supplements have to be prescribed in the right dose according to the individual.  It is not just with herbs we need to be cautious.. Certain vitamins and minerals work together like Vitamin C with iron. Others should not be taken together, eg zinc or copper with iron.

Herbs are treated with reverence because each contains active constituents giving them a specific therapeutic action. Some herbs have to be used cautiously because they can be contra-indicated in certain condition. For example it's claimed. Ginkgo biloba or ginseng can cause excessive bleeding, so neither should be used with a drug like Coumadin.  Combining valerian for its sedative effects with sleep aids can cause over-sedation.  The herbal antidepressant St. John’s Wort shouldn’t be used with SSRIs like Prozac  nor should you take it if you are on warfarin.  In fact hundreds of herbs can potentiate or block other medication or herbs . And some herbs aggravate in large doses or may lead to allergies.

Lastly, do not assume a supplement that is good for you is good for someone else.  Ask for advice by a trained practitioner if you are on medication or have a pre-existing medical condition. If you are pregnant, check that it is safe before you take anything. Check the recommended daily allowance of vitamin and minerals. Cheap supplements can be more harmful than beneficial.

Should You Tell Your GP & Specialists That You Are Taking Herbs/Supplements/Minerals?......100% Yes!!!

It is very important that all healthcare providers responsible for your care are fully informed about the herbs and drugs you are taking, including over the counter products and food supplements. This is important in order to avoid possible herb/drug/supplement/food interactions.

Before you even contemplate using herbs, supplements, minerals et al talk to your GP/specialist/healthcare professional and/or get the advice of an appropriately trained professional,  the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) can help.

The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) -  NIMH-registered western medical herbalists combine historical knowledge with the latest scientific research. Medical herbalists train for at least three years, receive botanical and medical training, and adhere to a strict code of conduct.

Training in phytotherapy includes the study of medical sciences, diagnostic and differential diagnostic skills, pharmacy, materia medica, botany, pharmacognosy, and nutrition, in addition to a minimum of 500 hours supervised clinical experience. 

Listen to this weeks radio report

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