Using Herbal Supplements Safely

Using Herbal Supplements Safely

Patients need to know the potential pitfalls of taking herbal supplements. 

Herbal supplements are also known as botanicals, have been in use for medical purposes for centuries, and they have lots of demand among customers today. The supplements are sold for the management and prevention of many disease situations and health conditions. About seventy-five percent of the global population have used or are still using herbal supplements.

In the United States, approximately 1 in 5 adults have used at least one herbal product last year. Some examples of the most natural herbal supplements sold in the country include milk thistle, evening primrose, black cohosh, St John's wort, saw palmetto, ginkgo, ginseng, flaxseed, echinacea, and garlic.

As the herbal supplement's popularity continues to grow, some people chose to use these supplements instead of traditional medicines. One must inform the consumer about the safe use of herbal supplements before taking them. There are numerous facts to consider before using these herbal supplements. While the supplements are considered natural, they may still cause several kinds of drug/supplement interactions and severe unfavorable effects and worsen certain medical conditions. Patients with particular medical diseases are at a greater risk of developing damaging effects when using herbal supplements.

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?

The regulatory board, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies herbs and other dietary supplements separately from prescribed medications. The norms of safety and effectiveness, that the conventional pharmaceuticals have to honor before obtaining consent to be marketed, do not apply to the herbal supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act has spared producers of herbal supplements from these statutes (see Regulatory Information/Legislation/).

Before Using An Herbal Supplement

 You should be aware that many herbal supplements may interact with prescription and nonprescription medications and cause severe interactions and severe effects. Mind it, in case you are considering using a herbal supplement. For example, the herbal supplement St John's wort interacts with many pharmaceuticals such as allergy medications, birth control pills, antidepressants, blood thinners, and cardiovascular drugs as digoxin. The herbal supplements feverfew, ginkgo, and ginger can interact with certain medicines used for breast cancer and a host of other medications.

If you are prone to allergies, especially allergies to pollen, weeds, or plants, you should discuss with your primary health care provider before consuming herbal supplements. People taking medications for blood thinning should always consult their primary health care provider before using any of the herbal supplements. Since senior citizens are diagnosed with multiple medical conditions and usually are on prescribed medications, it is essential that they also consult with their primary health care provider before using any herbal supplements to avoid any possible interactions.

Always consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplement if you have any of the following health problems:

  • Disorders of Blood clotting 
  • Case of Cancer
  • Diabetic
  • A swollen prostate gland
  • Case of Epilepsy
  • Case of Glaucoma
  • Chance of a Heart condition
  • Case of Hypertension
  • Case of Immune system disorders
  • Case of Thyroid 
  • Case of Parkinson's disease
  • Case of kidney or liver issues
  • Case of stroke

Make sure you explain the issue of using herbal supplements with your primary health care provider to help you make a reliable choice. Remember, "natural" does not always mean secure and free of adverse effects. When in doubt, always ask questions about your health.

Using Herbal Supplements Safely

Supplement Safety

St. John's Wort

This particular supplement is often taken for sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. But it can create side effects like dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, and headache. It will also make you get sunburned. It could also cause problems if you are on certain drugs like medicines for the heart, birth control pills, and antidepressants. Furthermore, it could make the chemotherapy affectless.


Kava is supposed to help with insomnia and anxiety issues. But it could cause liver damage. So you are advised not to take it if you are being treated for kidney and liver problems. Kava can be dangerous if you consume alcohol or other drugs that make you sleepy.


People often consume this to increase their memory. Some believe ginkgo Biloba helps with altitude sickness, mental function, circulation, among other health conditions. It could even cause bleeding by thinning the blood. It will be extra risky if you are taking blood-thinning medicines.


People believe that rubbing oil from this plant on their skin helps ease aches, swelling, and pain from bruising. Some take this supplement to help with constipation. If you eat the herb, it will raise blood pressure and cause shortness of breath. It could even damage the liver and land you in a coma or death.


Ginger is taken to ease nausea because of motion sickness, chemotherapy, or surgery. And certain times, it is also used to treat arthritis or other joint ailments. But ginger could cause rising of blood sugar levels, blood pressure, heart rhythms, and blood clotting problems. If you have diabetes or on blood thinners, please consult your doctor before taking this supplement.


Native Americans have a long history of this remedy. They use it for treating cancer, eye infections, colds, and constipation. But goldenseal can affect by lowering your blood pressure, affect blood clotting, and affect the heart's rhythm. Consult your doctor if you have these ailments.


Rubbing this plant on a wound or a burn will heal you and make you feel better. But some people consume it orally, which can cause kidney problems, abnormal heartbeat, and lower your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.


It is also known as ma huang. This herb has been used for years in India and China to treat symptoms of colds, headaches, and coughs. Very recently, people used it to get energy and to lose weight easier. Studies revealed that it could boost the possibility of heart problems and strokes and cause a rise in blood pressure. The FDA banned ephedra, but they still can be found in some herbal teas.



We all use herbs in our cooking, and all herbal products seem to be harmless. But certain supplements may not be safe, especially if you have medical issues or if you are taking any prescribed medicines. Consult your doctor before using the supplements.