Herbal Cautions

Herbs can be dangerous if used inappropriately. I’ve outlined a few of the points for those who want to self-medicate to be aware of below:

Specific safety data for herbs discussed can be found by clicking on panel opposite. If you are unsure, medical herbalists are trained in safe combining of herbs with orthodox medicines.

Firstly be conscious – Understand that when you are taking a herb you are (1) Self diagnosing and (2) Self prescribing.   

Correct identification –  If harvesting yourself be sure of the plant and of which part to harvest. If buying, use suppliers you know and trust.

Inappropriate use / diagnosis – Self medication has its flaws, not least that you may be treating the symptoms of a deeper underlying problem. If you are at all unsure consult a medical herbalist who is trained in medical diagnosis or your doctor.

Inappropriate dosage – Again, do your research and seek advice if you are not sure

Pre-existing conditions – Some herbs will not mix will with pre-existing medical conditions, e.g. epilepsy or diabetes.

Pregnancy and breast feeding – Many herbs are unsuitable in pregnancy, particularly early pregnancy. Often the risks are overstated, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s hard to evaluate what is an overstatement and what is sensible caution.

Combining with orthodox drugs – Taking therapeutic quantities of herbs will have an effect on the ways drug work within your body. This is a complex field, and though you can research it yourself it is a situation I would recommend getting advice from a qualified herbalist (Herbalists are trained in herb-drug interactions and this is an important part of their ongoing training (CPD))

• Long term usage – If you are self medicating and find you are on a herb for more than a month or two, I would recommend checking in with a herbalist to be sure there are no problems with long term usage.

Allergies –  Some allergies are relevant with herbs, e.g. many herbs contain salicylates which are unsuitable for those with salicylate sensitivity.

Safety checklist – questions to ask yourself

Taking medication (including contraceptive pill? Pregnant or breast feeding? On orthodox medications? Sure of diagnosis? Sure of product/identification? Any allergies? Any serious pre-existing conditions?

If you are at all unsure, check with a medical herbalist.

There are various professional organisations. I am a member of the National Institute of Medical Herblists who insist on a very high level of training and ongoing professional development. Their website will give a link to a herbalist near you.

If you’re close to Nailsworth I have a free drop in clinic Tue-Fri lunchtimes at 1.00-1.45. This is ideal for relatively simple questions though we will not have time to go in-depth. Unfortunately I can’t give any advice over the phone. If you are unable to make the drop in clinic, I am happy to arrange a free 10 minute check up within normal clinic hours (Tuesday-Thursday).