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Using Herbs Safely

Herbal therapies have been used in both Western and Eastern cultures for centuries. Herbal therapy is designed to prevent long-term (chronic) and acute disease, treat illness, and enhance overall health and well-being. This natural healing method is based on the belief that nature makes effective medicines. And that over time these medicines have changed to meet the human body's daily and long-term needs. 

The healing power of plants

Herbal therapy is plant-based. So it's sometimes called botanical medicine. The root, leaf, stem, flower, or even the pollen of plants may be used to make herbal treatments. Many herbs may be mixed into one formula for a more complex and holistic effect. The combined herbs may work together to reduce or even prevent possible side effects and strengthen the formula. 

Take any herbal treatments as carefully as you would take prescription medicine. Only take them under the advice of a qualified herbalist or provider who is trained and certified in botanical medicine. Don't use herbs without professional help. Always tell your primary care provider about any herbal treatments you are using.

Myths and facts about herbs

Myth: Herbs are all natural, so they can't harm you.

Fact: Herbs are powerful substances. They should be overseen by professionals.

Myth: All over-the-counter herbs are the same.

Fact: Herbal remedies don’t have production guidelines like those of prescription medicines. A trained professional can help ensure that you get high-quality products.

Myth: The more herbs you take, the better the results.

Fact: Some herbs are toxic in high doses and can make you sick. More is not always better. Take only as directed.

Myth: Herbs can be taken at any time, with any medicine, and even when you are pregnant or nursing. 

Fact: Many herb may be harmful if taken with certain prescription medicines. Also, many herbs are not safe to take when pregnant or nursing. Always talk with a trained professional before combining herbal medicines with your prescription medicines or if pregnant or nursing.

Questions for the herbalist

Before you decide to use herbal therapy, talk with a trained professional. Asking them some of these questions may help you make a more informed decision:

  • What is your training? How long have you been practicing?

  • Do herbs have side effects? Will they interact with other medicines I take?

  • Have you treated problems like mine?

  • Will you work with my healthcare provider?

  • What will a typical visit be like?

  • How long will treatment take and how much will it cost?

  • Where do you get your herbs?

To learn more

Find more information at:

  • Herb Research Foundation

  • American Herbal Products Association

  • The American Botanical Council, 

  • National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.