Friday, August 21, 2009

When herbal treatments "cause harm"

The phrase "Above all, do no harm" is usually attributed to the Hippocratic Oath. Many patients often think that herbal treatments can't possibly cause harm because they're "all natural." The reality is that some herbal therapies have very active ingredients that can have significant pharmacological effects. (remember that opium and marijuana are both "natural" plants)

CNN has a story about this topic titled, "Herbs, vitamins that can hurt you." In that story, you'll read about an individual who ended up taking an overdose of vitamin B6. Dr. Roberta Lee, vice chairwoman of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, comments: "A lot of people think herbs are safe because they come from nature, and they are safe if used properly," Lee said. "But you can still get into trouble with them."

According to the CNN story, here's a list of herbs and supplements that can be dangerous if taken the wrong way: either in high doses, in combination with certain drugs or before surgery.
1. St. John's wort
2. Kava
3. Fish oil
4. Artemisinin
5. Various herbs when taken before surgery
Herbs and vitamins are not harmless substances. Make sure to always tell your healthcare provider about any herbs, vitamins, or supplements you may be taking.

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