St Louis Spine and Joint Pain Specialists
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In today’s world, many people take numerous prescription and over the counter medications. With the risk of side effects and possible interactions between medications, it’s no surprise that some have begun looking to more “natural” remedies for treatment of certain ailments. These “natural” remedies or supplements are branded as healthy alternatives to traditional modern medicine but this assumption may prove to be extremely dangerous.
Herbal supplements are everywhere. It seems like there is a new trend every month with an herbal supplement that promises to boost your immune system or help joint or arthritis pain “naturally”. Most people associate “natural” with “safe” and that is where the deception begins. In reality, herbal supplements are only loosely regulated by the food and drug administration (FDA). This means that these supplements do not have to go through the same scrutiny of studies that test safety and effectiveness like prescription medications do. In other words, there is no agency that truly controls what is put into these supplements or how it might damage your body. The FDA mostly removes herbal products when they are found to pose a threat or may be contaminated with other toxic chemicals but at that point, the damage might have already been done.
There are many ways that side effects can occur with herbal supplements. One way is the herbal product itself. The active ingredient of a certain plant or herb found in the supplement can become toxic to organs such as the liver and kidney if it is continuously used. Another way that herbals can become dangerous is the interaction they can have with prescription medications you may be taking. Some of these herbal supplements can slow down how fast your other medications are broken down and removed from your body. This can be extremely dangerous as the other medications can build up in your system to levels higher than they should be and potentially poison certain organs. Other herbal supplements can make your prescription medications ineffective by speeding up the breakdown and removal of those medications before they have a chance to work.
In summary, the best way to protect yourself from these unregulated supplements is to do your research. Despite the claims that many of these supplements make on their bottles or in advertisements, there have been little or no independent studies that have shown them to be effective at treating what they claim. At this time, there is insufficient data for many of these products and most of the claims made are based of off anecdotal reports. If you do choose to try an herbal product, it is wise to be aware of the interactions they may have with other medications you are taking. There are many resources online that you can input all of your medications and see if they interact with the herbal supplement you plan on taking. You can also ask your local pharmacist for assistance in determining possible interactions.