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Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings About Herbs

If you choose to use herbal supplements, how can you reap the benefits they offer without risking your health and wasting your money? Ask yourself these questions:

Has the manufacturer performed research on this specific product, or is that manufacturer using "borrowed research?"
A manufacturer may make broad claims about, for example, the benefits of St. John's Wort in general but not mention the dosage or purity of their tablets. Just because it's been proven by a clinical study that a certain formulation is beneficial, it doesn't mean that any product containing St. John's Wort will follow what the study claims.

Does the product label have outrageous claims? Avoid any product that makes promises no product can possibly live up to. There are no herbal cancer cures, fountains of youth, or weight-loss miracles. Remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Is the manufacturer reputable?
You'll need to do your homework, but it's important to buy herbals only from companies you can trust to provide a safe and effective product. Talk with your pharmacist about the different products available.

Does the product label give information about standardized formulations?
You need this information to know how much of the active ingredient you are taking and that the same amount of this ingredient is present in each tablet.

Do the labels have warnings of any possible side effects?
Know what adverse effects to look for before you start taking any herb or herbal product. The label should also tell you if the product is not safe for pregnant women and for people with chronic conditions.

Does the product give you clear dosage instructions?
Too much of even a good thing can do you harm. Too little can waste your money. Herbal products should not be used by children because their effects and proper dosages are unknown.

If you use vitamins or herbal supplements, be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist, especially if you are pregnant, planning to be or breastfeeding. Some could interfere with your prescribed treatment.

last update: February 2014

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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