What’s the harm, the question goes, if herbal supplements don’t actually help cure anything? Well, they could kill you if you’re on certain types of real medications:
Researchers are warning that popular herbs and supplements, including St. John’s wort and even garlic and ginger, do not mix well with common heart drugs and can also be dangerous for patients taking statins, blood thinners and blood pressure medications.
St. John’s wort raises blood pressure and heart rate, and garlic and ginger increase the risk of bleeding in patients on blood thinners, the researchers said. Even grapefruit juice can be risky, increasing the effects of calcium-channel blockers and statins, they said.
People don’t tend to think of herbs as being a type of chemical, but they are and they can have an impact on any other chemicals you might be taking:
The paper includes a list of more than two dozen herbal products that patients should approach with caution, as well as a list of common drug-herb interactions. Among the products listed are ginkgo biloba, ginseng and echinacea, as well as some surprises like soy milk and green tea — both of which can decrease the effectiveness of warfarin — and even aloe vera and licorice.
The abstract to the paper will get your attention:
More than 15 million people in the U.S. consume herbal remedies or high-dose vitamins. The number of visits to providers of complementary and alternative medicine exceeds those to primary care physicians, for annual out-of-pocket costs of $30 billion. Use of herbal products forms the bulk of treatments, particularly by elderly people who also consume multiple prescription medications for comorbid conditions, which increases the risk of adverse herb-drug-disease interactions. Despite the paucity of scientific evidence supporting the safety or efficacy of herbal products, their widespread promotion in the popular media and the unsubstantiated health care claims about their efficacy drive consumer demand. In this review, we highlight commonly used herbs and their interactions with cardiovascular drugs. We also discuss health-related issues of herbal products and suggest ways to improve their safety to better protect the public from untoward effects.
Visits to so-called complementary and alternative medicine practitioners exceeds those to primary care physicians? Really? Have we all gone that nuts? The $30 billion a year in money wasted doesn’t surprise me that much, we’ve been a nation willing to waste tons of money on shit that doesn’t work for quite a while now, but the fact that the woo-woo practitioners are seeing more people simply shocks me.
Given that they’re talking about health effects from supplements made from a single herb, consider what that means when you take something like (We-Can’t-Say-It-Cures-Colds-Anymore-But-It-Kinda-Does-Wink-Wink) Airborne which contains a shit load of herbs and vitamins. According to the official site it has the following in it: Vitamins A, C, and E, Zinc, Selenium, Manganese, Magneisum, Riboflavin, Amino Acids, and a proprietary herbal blend that includes Lonicera, Forsythia, Schizonepeta, Ginger, Chinese Vitex, Isatis and Echinacea.
That’s quite the mix and you have no idea what the dosages are for most of the ingredients. Consider that it contains 5,000 units of Vitamin A per tablet and you are encouraged to take five tablets a day or more. Did I mention that taking more than 10,000 units of Vitamin A a day is considered unsafe? Not to mention that it also contains high doses of Vitamin C which can lead to kidney stones, among other problems. Combine that with the fact that several of its components are known to interact with legit medicines and you could be doing quite a bit of harm by taking it.
But hey, it was created by a school teacher and they know better than any stupid old doctor what’s best to put in your body, right?