Herbal Supplements – Partners for Better Health

Herbal supplements are primarily made from plants or herbs. These supplements are then added to a person’s diet for different health purposes. Even though most of these supplements are not yet officially regarded as medicines or drugs, there are some herbal supplements that work like drugs and could have both helpful and harmful side effects.

Use of herbs for the treatment of infections and diseases is almost universal in non-industrialized and traditional societies. Most pharmaceuticals available to physicians right now have an extensive history of usage as herbal supplements such as quinine, digitalis, aspirin, and opium.

Rising Popularity of Herbal Supplements

The WHO or World Health Organization currently estimates 80% of the world population use herbal medicines for some areas of primary healthcare. Herbal treatment is a primary aspect of all traditional medical systems and is also a common ingredient in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, Native American, and traditional Chinese medicine.

WHO states that 74% of 119 plant-derived medicines today are used in similar methods as those of their traditional uses. The major drug companies currently conduct extensive research on herbs and plants collected from rainforests as well as other places for potential new pharmaceuticals.

The search and use for dietary supplements and drugs derived from plants have seen an increase for the past few years. Natural-product chemists, botanists, and pharmacologists are looking for and analyzing different phytochemicals and plants that can be developed for the treatment of different kinds of diseases. In fact, around 25% of modern drugs being used in the US are derived from plants.

Are There Regulations on Herbal Supplements and Medications?

The FDA or Food and Drug Administration is the primary agency in the US that is in charge of regulating herbal supplements and other types of dietary supplements. However, these are considered as foods instead of drugs. The ruling only means that the supplements haven’t met yet the similar standards as drugs for proof of quality, effectiveness, and safety. For instance, a produce can sell herbal supplements even with no proof that it really works.

Labels on herbal supplements may not be accurate or complete. Active ingredients in most herbal supplements have not been verified. There are instances when the information on the product bottle is not the same with what is indicated on the label. Some herbal supplements in the past were tainted with germs, drugs, and metals.

For this reason, claims a manufacturer makes about the effects of an herbal supplement should be followed by a certain disclaimer. Make sure you check the product labels and stay away from herbal supplements that claim to cure certain health concerns.

Stay Safe When Taking Herbal Supplements

Follow these precautions and tips to stay on the safe side when you take herbal supplements:
• Always consult your healthcare provider before you use herbal supplements, particularly if you are taking other non-prescription drugs or medicines or if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. Avoid taking herbal supplements for serious medical conditions if you don’t consult your doctor first.

• Read the labels carefully. Buy only approved supplements.
• Talk with licensed pharmacists or healthcare professionals if you have questions or concerns about herbal supplements.
• Buy herbal supplements from a reliable herbal manufacturer.

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