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A Guide to Herbal Supplements

A Guide to Herbal Supplements

People are searching for ways to improve life, health, and well-being; and are looking to do it naturally. While herbal supplements are gaining in popularity and safer, you need to educate yourself and do some research first.

Herbal supplements can be beneficial. They contain active ingredients similar to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines. Some herbal supplements are riskier than others. It is recommended to talk to your doctor to determine how the herb’s active ingredient will affect you, your current physical health condition, and review you medical history prior to starting an herbal supplement.

Herbal Supplements Safety

Safety is first priority when looking for an herbal supplement. Currently, herbal supplements are not regulated for safety, effectiveness, or content. A new regulation called the Federal, Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to monitor both dietary and herbal supplements. This is expected to be effective and complete by June 2010. The new guidelines, for the FDA, will not be as detailed as they are for new drugs on the market but will improve safety significantly.

Warnings about Herbal Supplements

Until the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is in place, you need to be cautious of fake labeling, wrong contents, contaminants, and overall quality of herbal supplements. Luckily there are herbal supplements out there that are “USP Dietary Supplement Verified”. This means they have met standardized requirements. These requirements are tested for uniformity, cleanliness, and contaminates. This does not guarantee the product is market safe. It does guarantee that the product was tested; not if it passed or failed. Other companies that meet the standardized requirement testing are Consumerlab.com, Good Housekeeping, and NSF International.

Deciding Which Herbal Supplements to Purchase

*Buy herbs separately. (You are looking for clear and specific dosages. When purchasing mixed herbs, most companies do not disclose portion ratios by herb. This could potentially be harmful because the portion of active ingredient may be too much or too little.)
*It’s too good to be true. (If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. There isn’t any one herb that is the end all, be all to your healthy well-being.)
*Beware of non-domestic distributors/manufacturers. (Most countries, with exception to some European Countries, do not regulate their herbs. Some have been known to contain toxins and even prescription drugs have been found.)

Persons Not Recommended (Without Physician Consent)

*Anyone currently taking prescriptions or OTC medication
*Persons with a condition that has a proven medical treatment
*Persons pregnant and/or breast-feeding
*Persons scheduled for surgery
*Persons under the age of 16 or over the age of 65

Preparing to Talk to the Doctor

Good questions to ask:
*What side effects will the herbal supplement cause?
*Is an herbal supplement appropriate for my current medical condition?
*Will an herbal supplement have a reaction with my current prescriptions?
*Is there a more natural way to reach the results I am looking for?

Be prepared for a “skeptical” doctor. There have been few scientific studies that support herbal supplements to date. However, most doctors are working to better understand herbal supplements in order to make informed decisions. You can always ask for a referral to a specialist or pharmacist if your physician is not comfortable with discussing a natural way to improve your life, health, and well-being.