Downsides to Taking Herbs
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Erin Svara
Posted on: October 31, 1998

I am doing a project on herbal medicines, and was wondering if there are any downfalls, or disadvantages in taking herbs for medicinal purposes?

This is a very broad question.

The short answer is, yes, there can be downsides to taking herbs for medicinal purposes.

1. Herbs do not always work. Some ailments are not easily treated with herbs and are better treated with other methods. For example, certain cancers are best treated with surgery. If they are not quickly removed, they can spread to other parts. In these cases, the use of slow acting herbs can be insufficient to stop the tumour from spreading.

2. Herbs can have side effects. Generally, herbs have far fewer side effects than drugs. But, some are very powerful and can easily harm or cause discomfort if misused.

3. Herbs are often slower acting requiring persistance and patience.

4. Herbs can be more complicated to take. For instance, some herbs are applied as a compress or poultice to the affected area, and these are time consuming to prepare and apply.

5. The quality of herbs is often variable. From batch to batch the active constituent levels may vary considerably.

6. Herbs are not included in most health and drug plans. However, they tend to be less expensive than drugs.

7. Professional herbalists may not be as well trained as doctors, and may not always make the correct diagnosis and prescribe the correct remedies in the correct doses.

8. Correct information about indications, contraindications and dosages, are hard to come by. Manufacturers are forced to leave much of the information off the labels because of inappropriate regulatory rules imposed by the government.

There are more, but these are probably the most important. For more important consult Varro Tyler’s "The Honest Herbal".

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