Herbal Remedies: Good for What Ails You?

2005-02-02 08:12

(NC) - In a world where prescribed medicines often carry a long list of potential side effects and contraindications, natural, herbal-based remedies present an appealing alternative - one that more and more Canadians are exploring. According to a recent survey, one in three Canadians uses herbal remedies to improve their health.

Used by native populations to treat ailments for thousands of years, herbal remedies are not a new phenomenon. In fact, many of the doctor-prescribed medications today have herbal origins. Penicillin, the drug that changed the course of history, was derived from a mold. And many of the medicines used today, such as aspirin, and some laxatives and antibiotics, have plant origins.

However, for people with certain health problems, some natural remedies can be dangerous.

"One of the most common misconceptions is that if it says "natural" on the label, it's safe," says Dr. Joanne Kappel, Chair of The Kidney Foundation of Canada's Chronic Kidney Disease Advisory. "The fact is that many "natural" medications have active ingredients with side effects that are potentially harmful, especially for people with chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease."

Some herbal remedies, for example, raise blood pressure. Some increase the risk of stomach and intestinal bleeding if taken with aspirin. Others may interfere with certain heart medications or insulin, either lessening their effect or making the problem worse.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Kappel, is to speak to your doctor if you are taking any herbal supplements. You may be doing more harm than good.

The Kidney Foundation of Canada, founded in 1964, is the national health charity dedicated to kidney health and improving the lives of all people affected by kidney disease.

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- News Canada

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