Herbal Health 101: Side Effects of Herbs

While herbs tend to be safer and more natural than prescription medications, even herbs can have side effects. Educate yourself and make the best use of your herbs.

Many people use herbs because they are more natural then pharmaceutical medications, and have fewer side-effects. While this is typically true, herbs can still have side effects, and you should be aware of them so that you can safely and wisely make use of herbs to maintain your health.

With many herbs, particularly when used in tea form, the most common side effect is an unpleasant lingering taste and gas. These are easy to deal with by flavoring your teas and using a gas relieving product. Ginger or licorice will combat gas and indigestion. Citrus or honey can be used to make teas taste better and stevia makes a great natural sweetener.

One of the biggest dangers of herb use is when people attempt to collect wild herbs, and pick the wrong ones. For example, Hemlock and Queen Anne’s Lace are often confused with one another. Queen Anne’s Lace is a useful wild carrot, while Hemlock is deadly. It is recommended that you buy your herbs from an herbal retailer to ensure you’re getting the right plant. Only those with extensive knowledge in identifying plant species should attempt to do so.

Different herbs can have different side effects. St. John’s Wort for example, while good for depression, can cause sun sensitivity if used improperly. Ginseng can be wonderful for you, but also thins the blood and can cause bleeding problems. Some people can also have allergies toward herbs, even the ones commonly used in cooking, like cinnamon. It is always wise to do an allergy test with each herb before beginning regular use.

Another common problem with herb use is that people do not take into consideration how they may interact with any prescription drugs they’re taking, or with each other. If you are taking prescription drugs, it is imperative that you learn what herbs may have negative effects if used simultaneously with that medication. It is also important to combine herbs wisely. For example, combining the use of gingko, chamomile and ginger can increase your risk of bleeding issues.

Overall, you need to be well-armed with knowledge before using herbs. If possible, have a homeopath, naturopath or certified herbalist help you with choosing which herbs to use, and how to use them safely. Most herbal side-effects can be avoided with proper education. Be sure you have all the necessary knowledge before you begin using herbs to treat your health issues.

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All information in this article is based on my own personal knowledge gained from 10 years of herbal studies. Even though I have done extensive personal study about the use of herbs for medicinal purposes, I always recommend that you double-check anything you read about herbs, and whenever possible, consult a certified herbal professional.