Consumer healthcare specialist Dr. Tod Cooperman explains the guidelines consumers should follow when using herbal supplements. Watch Dr. Cooperman's video for tips and information on nutritional supplements.
A distrust of the medical establishment arguably has helped fuel popularity of herbs in the West. Many people began taking charge of their health, essentially self-medicating.
In response, the medical establishment began integrating herbs into their practices, creating a hybrid of traditional and modern medicines. This kind of medicine is called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).
The practice of CAM is predicated upon the efficacy and safety of the herbs. But without regulation from the Federal Drug Administration, physicians are unsure of how safe or effective an herbal supplement may be.
Because there is no federal oversight of herbal supplements and because herbs are naturally occurring, many assume that the drugs are less harmful than those which are produced by chemists in laboratories and that are regulated by the federal government.
That perception, however, can prove dangerous. While they are not synthetic, herbs contain power chemical compounds. For instance, Monkshood can stop the lungs or heart, killing someone within a couple of hours of even handling it.
A common herbal medication known as Kava Kava can be used to treat mild to moderate anxiety. Kava Kava aids in relief of anxiety by having a rapid, calm effect on the nervous system. It is important to avoid use of alcohol or any medication metabolized by the liver when taking Kava Kava. In addition, it is recommended that you speak with your health care provider before consuming any herbal medications.
Plants and healing herbs have been a part of the human medical armamentarium since the dawn of time. Our ancestors who foraged for healing herbs passed the knowledge down through the ages, and years of trial and error produced some powerful remedies. Plants contain bioactive compounds that have many therapeutic uses. In fact, many active ingredients in Western medicine pharmaceuticals were first discovered in plants, following the lead of traditional medicine men and shamans of indigenous and Asian cultures.
One complaint that has found refuge in herbal medicine is the hot flashes and night sweats (vasomotor symptoms) of menopause. Hot flashes are experienced when estrogen naturally wanes during menopause or when estrogen is intentionally disabled as a part of treatment. Popular herbal remedies to temper hot flashes are black cohosh and sage tea, both thought to work on receptors that affect vasomotor symptoms.