More and more people are turning to natural and herbal products as “healthy” alternatives to prescription medications. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that some of these products can be more harmful to your health than the prescription written by your doctor.
Prescription medications are monitored by your doctor and side effects are taken in consideration as well as interactions with any medication you might currently be taking. Your doctor will order monthly blood tests if necessary to monitor the effect the drugs have on your body, such as your liver.
Herbal and natural products are monitored by NO ONE, including the FDA, and often patients do not mention any non-prescription product they are taking to their physician.
Here are just a few of the most common herbal or natural substances and their potentially deadly side effects:
• Ephedra is a natural stimulant often used to treat the common cold. But this substance causes dangerous and life-threatening increases in heart rate and blood pressure. It has been found to have potentially fatal interactions with many cardiac medicines- the FDA has actually stepped in and implemented regulations on its use.
• Garlic is used in several natural home remedies: to lower cholesterol, to prevent and treat colds, and to treat certain infections. But most people don’t know that too much garlic use can cause excessive bleeding in people taking blood-thinning medication!
• Vitamin E is a vitamin that may cause blood to clot very slowly, increasing the risk of prolonged bleeding. When coupled with prescription medications that are specifically for people who have clotting problems (blood that is too thick) such as Coumadin or Warfarin, your blood may become too thin. Add a surgical procedure into the mix and you could have a recipe for disaster!
• Too much calcium can cause high levels of calcium in the blood, kidney function impairment and reduced absorption of the minerals iron, magnesium phosphorus and zinc. So be wary when taking your Vitamin C- don’t take too much because you feel a cold coming on!
• Excess levels of iron can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs, cause fatigue, headache, low blood sugar, liver problems, testicular trouble and even coma.
• Vitamin A overdoses can lead to liver damage, central nervous system disorders, reduced bone density and eventual osteoporosis, and birth defects in infants.
We don’t want to scare you out of taking your vitamins- they can make great dietary supplements IF taken in the right dosage! But we want all of our patients to be aware of the potential dangers of taking natural and herbal remedies because these products are generally not monitored correctly.
If natural supplements are something you are interested in, please discuss it with your doctor. He or she can help you determine which natural remedies may be effective for you and which can potentially kill you!