Our ancestors have used herbal medicines for thousands of years. While they don’t often receive scientific scrutiny as other medicines, they have proven to help strengthen the body. Before taking herbal remedies, it’s vital to understand their benefits and possible side effects first. People have different reactions to various medications. So it’s wiser to consult your doctor first, especially if you have a health problem or are breastfeeding or pregnant.
Are Herbs and Natural Remedies Regulated?
The FDA does regulate herbal medicines. But the FDA is not as strict in regulating herbal medicines as they are with over-the-counter and prescription drugs. They put natural remedies under the category of dietary supplements. Unlike other categories, dietary supplements don’t need approval from the FDA. Yet, they need to:
- Guarantee that the products are contaminant-free and have proper labels.
- Provide research that supports the claims of the supplement. The product needs to address health support and nutrient deficiency.
- Refrain from advertising medical claims. It should NOT make false statements like curing diseases or illnesses.
Also, manufacturers need to:
- Meet quality standards and procedures.
- If not, the FDA can eliminate products and stop their production.
Yet, it’s still important to remember that even though there are rules and regulations, herbs and medicines are not always safe to use.
What You Need To Check
Like other products, manufacturers advertise their supplements in various ways. They use social media marketing tools, animated promotional videos, word of mouth, and many more. In short, there are many ways for you to learn about a specific product.
But what exactly do you need to check if you’re interested in buying one? The FDA requires the following information in the labels:
- Name of the product.
- Address of the distributor or manufacturer.
- A list of all ingredients.
- Amount of active ingredients and serving size.
If there’s something in the label that bothers you, you can always call your doctor. Your physician can provide better information if the product is suitable for you or not.
Who Are Not Allowed to Use Herbal Remedies?
Though herbal products are generally safe to use, they still pose potential risks. Their active ingredients often give strong effects that not everyone may be able to tolerate. For instance, taking herbal supplements and prescription drugs together can have dangerous effects.
If you fall under one of the categories below, it would be wiser to speak to your doctor about herbal supplements:
- Taking OTC or prescription drugs. Some herbs are not meant to be taken with other medications such as blood pressure and blood-thinning medications.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding woman. You will eventually pass down everything you eat to your baby through pregnancy or breastfeeding. Be sure to consult your doctor if the supplement you’re planning to take is safe for your baby.
- About to have surgery. Herbal supplements can have adverse effects on the success of your surgery. Some of these remedies may even block the effects of anesthesia and cause complications.
- Below 18 or above 65 years old. Due to possible risks, a few herbal supplements may need a doctor’s advice as children can only take safe doses. It’s also the same case for seniors.
Fact-checking the Claims
Herbal or not. Business is still business. Distributors of herbal supplements need to be responsible for ensuring that their claims are valid and factual. They can face the consequences if proven that they give incorrect information about their products.
But the thing is since the FDA does not strictly monitor herbal medicines, consumers need to be very cautious in taking them. As a consumer, you need to look beyond their marketing. Find their objective, do your research, and ask for different opinions. Here’s how you can double-check if the supplement you’re about to buy is worth the shot:
- Get your doctor’s opinion. Even though your doctor may not be familiar with a particular herbal supplement, they can still guide you about the risk it may pose.
- Do some research. The internet offers much valid information and knowledge about herbal use. But don’t rely on one website or blog. Spend some time searching for scientific researches and definite opinions from experts.
- Message the manufacturer. The best way to know more is by contacting the manufacturer. You can directly ask them questions about their products. They may provide you with all the information you need, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Once you’ve decided to give herbal medicine a try, be sure always to follow the label’s instructions. Do not take more than what was indicated in the brand, and stop immediately if you notice side effects. Last but not least, choose your brand wisely. Opt for brands recommended by the people you trust.