There is a fast-growing interest among people today regarding alternative medicines and therapies. This interest includes the herbal remedies and dietary supplements market. In fact, it’s a safe bet that many large supermarkets in your local area feature an aisle or two specifically for natural medicines alone. A quick browse through the World Wide Web about health problems and topics will reveal advertisements and articles about natural health products that claim to help consumers with everything from migraines to sexual deficiencies.

When they are used properly in combination with a patient’s overall health regimen, these natural health products can be effective and safe. More and more people are observed to be taking an active part in taking care of their health, and this is a good thing. What makes it a problem, though, is the lack of information that patients sometimes have, especially when it comes to self-presciption medicines. With that in mind, it is valuable to know the following rules-of-thumb regarding botanicals and herbal remedies:

1. Don’t immediately think that taking a natural medicine is safe for you. Alternative medicines from plants or herbs can also be dangerous when taken improperly. These natural medicines are usually needed to be taken in strong dosages, or at least strong enough to be effective. It’s good to remember that they also have contra-indications, just like other medicines. Usually these contra-indications happen when abnormally large dosages are taken, or if the herb is taken over a prolonged amount of time.

Sometimes patients also take other drugs along with the herbal medicines. Sometimes, a combination of herbs and pharmaceutical drugs will result in unforeseen problems, some of which can be dangerous. At the very least, a drug can sometimes affect the effectiveness of the medicine. This is one of the important reasons why patients should always consult their doctors before taking any medications, herbal or otherwise.

2. Not all the herbal remedies and natural medicines you see are created equal. You have to remember that although pharmaceutical drugs are tightly regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), herbal remedies and dietary supplements are still considered as “food” by the FDA. Therefore, the standardization and quality control enforced by the FDA on pharmaceutical drugs doesn’t always extend to herbal and dietary supplements.

Consumers do not always know that the FDA does not analyze the contents of the dietary supplements being sold in the market today. The manufacturers of these supplements must comply with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for food products only. In case you don’t know what GMPs are for, they state the conditions under which food products must be prepared, packed, and stored. That’s it.

Food GMPs do not take into consideration the overall quality of the supplements or its contents. However, it’s a good thing that more and more herbal supplement manufacturers are voluntarily complying with the FDA’s GMP for pharmaceutical drugs. These are stricter and more standardized, so the products from these manufacturers do come with a certain level of safety.

3. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. In this instance, I’m talking about the claims that some manufacturers put on their products, some of which are outrageously and overly hyped to be true. Yes, some botanical remedies have been known to produce amazing and almost-miraculous results, but consumers cannot take anything for granted, especially with something that they take into their body. Always use common sense when buying and using a new product, and be very careful of those remedies which claim to be a cure-all.

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