4 Oct, 2013 @ 09:23
2 mins read

Juliet Hambro asks are herbal supplements safe?


IN this day of modern medicine, we find pills and potions to remedy nearly any condition.

And many pensioners, unhappy with their health or appearance, venture into the realm of ‘natural’ herbal supplements to solve their problems.

Many old-time natural remedies are valuable and safe to use, but increasingly there are reports of supplements causing health risks rather than curing a condition.

What are the risks?

The main problem with using over the counter natural health supplements is that they are not required to be inspected for quality, strength and content.

You may take one batch and have no adverse affects, while another may harm you.

In addition, some supplements make exaggerated claims that are either inaccurate or outright fraudulent.

And finally, the supplement may actually do you harm—cause heart attack or stroke, damage liver or kidneys, cause any number of side effects from hair loss to jaundice, to loss of finger or toenails, to diarrhoea, joint pain and breathing problems.

Some of these conditions may be permanent, continuing even after the patient stops taking the supplement.

While supplements are produced all over the world, China has the worst reputation for making and marketing contaminated products.

In general, it is wise to look for FDA or other formal approval of safety such as the seal of approval given by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which tracks complaints, side effects, and deaths from product use.

The products most often causing health risks and promising much more than they can achieve are those offered in the areas of weight loss, sexual enhancement and body building.

In these products you are much more likely to find huge claims that are not met, dangerous ingredients that are not on the labels and experience unwanted side effects.

Buyer beware, the products may contain heavy metals, pesticides, or prescription strength drugs.

Case examples

In recent years the product Ephedra for weight loss has been taken off the market.

There were reports of thousands of adverse reactions to the drug.

Also the weight loss product Hydroxycut was proven to cause hepatitis and jaundice in users.

One of the problems with ridding the market of such products is that the companies can reformulate the product, changing the ingredients slightly and then reintroduce them on the market with no oversight or testing.

Some of the supplements that seem to be safe to use include calcium, Vitamin D, cranberry, fish oil, glucosamine and St. John’s Wort.

A list known as the ‘dirty dozen’, which should be avoided includes aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia and yohimbe.

If you do decide to take a supplement, be sure to speak with your doctor first.

Do a little research and check with governing agencies in your area to be sure the product is safe.

Then monitor your health closely.

Side effects may appear slowly over time or come on suddenly.

What are the raw ingredients in the product?

Are there agencies that have tested the product?

Are there any reports of adverse reactions and what are they?

Products untested before sale have been shown to have as much as 200 times the listed strength and have proved to contain contaminants very dangerous to health.

It pays to be careful.

Safety tips

• Be especially careful in choosing products for weight loss, sexual performance or body building.

• Don’t assume ‘more is better’. Always follow correct dosage of a given product.

• Report any adverse reactions to your doctor immediately.

• Recognise exaggerated claims.

• Research a product online if possible, looking for any adverse reports or scams.

• Choose USP or other agencies verification of quality screening.

We all want to feel well and live active senior lives.

But great care must be given to safety when it comes to putting drugs or herbal supplements into our bodies.

Just as we monitor the interaction of our prescription drugs, we must also monitor even more carefully the supplements we use to achieve optimal health.

  • Ask Granny  is a unique online resource for seniors and grandparents – a website created by a grandmother exclusively for grandparents and the over 50s to provide all the information they need on the internet. www.askgranny.com was founded by Juliet Hambro who had the idea for the website shortly after she became a grandmother for the first time.

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