The rising popularity of organic lifestyle has created a new fad. Before joining the bandwagon, here are some things you need to know before making a decision on whether to go herbal or not.

What is the difference between a drug and a dietary supplement?

Food and Drug Administrations in different countries define drugs as chemicals that prevent and cure ailments and diseases, improve the quality of life, and alter the function of any part or chemicals inside the body. These drugs have approved therapeutic claims. For example, paracetamol is a drug that lowers the body temperature in fever.

Herbal supplements are classified as dietary supplements. The main difference is that these do not have approved therapeutic claims. Dietary supplements are vitamins, minerals, or amino acids that supplement the diet of an individual. These are not intended as substitutes to food or medicine.

Most of the manufactured medicines come from animals and plants. Through the years, chemists isolated life-saving components. Further drug research and development lead to the production of a variety of drugs from synthetic sources.

Herbal supplements are made from herbs reduced into powder or gel form and later packaged as tablets and capsules. Because of this, the medical community raised concern about the presence of life-threatening or chemistry-altering components in herbal capsules.

Is there a growing concern with the use of herbal supplements?

Yes. One such concern is the proliferation of fake herbal supplements that threaten lives. One way of preventing this is to have the supplements registered with the proper authority. Quality and safety of herbal supplements is ensured with the proper classification and monitoring of production.

Is it worth the risk?

Yes. It cannot be discounted that people who have tried herbal supplements experienced improvements in their health. Of course, certain things must be considered before taking those herbal supplements:

1)   Your doctor knows best.

Seek clearance from your doctor. People with heart, liver, or kidney trouble are cautioned from taking these supplements. Kava, which used to relieve people from stress, has been pulled out from the Canadian, Singaporean, and German markets because it contains substances that cause liver damage. Certain herbals such as Ephedra used for losing weight, contains chemicals with heart-inducing effects that can increase heart rate and cause heart attack. There have been documented cases by the American Medical Association.

2)   Follow the directions for use.

Never take more herbal supplements than what is directed by the doctor or instructed on the bottle. Each individual reacts differently to the components of herbal supplements. While it is perfectly safe for one individual to take primrose oil capsules, another person may be allergic to it.

Keep in mind that herbal supplements have no approved curative effect. Herbal supplements are not therapeutic. Be wary of some claims indicated in product pamphlet or label of the bottle.

If you are undergoing treatment for diseases, never substitute these supplements for the medications prescribed by your doctor. It is never meant as substitute for maintenance drugs for blood pressure, lowering of blood sugar and cholesterol, and fight off infections.

With this knowledge, you can make better decisions on whether to go herbal or not!

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