1. Health

Herbal Supplements

Are They Safe?


Updated June 30, 2008

Since ancient times, people of many cultures have used herbs for medicinal purposes. While herbal supplements may indeed be beneficial, they can also be dangerous. If you are considering taking herbal supplements, there are some things you should know about first.

Herbs Are Natural, Aren’t They?

Many people mistakenly believe that natural is synonymous with safe, but this simply is not so. Just because something grows naturally does not mean it won’t hurt you. Hemlock and oleander, for example, are two very natural yet very deadly plants.

Are Herbs Safer Than Medications?

Not necessarily. In some cases, herbs might be safer but in others, they might be more dangerous. Many herbs have effects on the body like medicines, and some of the effects can cause damage. If you take other medicines, herbs can interfere with the way they work. Be sure to let your doctor know about any herbs that you might take.

Do You Know What’s In That Pill?

In the United States, herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the way that medications are. They are regulated as foods, which have much more lenient guidelines than drugs. Herbal supplements may contain many unidentified ingredients besides the active ingredient. Some herbal supplements have even been found to be contaminated with metals, bacteria, or other substances. The bottom line is that there is no real regulation over what goes into an herbal supplement.

Herbal Supplements: Consider Safety, Too. U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. May 27, 2008. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/supplement-safety/

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