Many people use natural remedies in place of or alongside prescription medications. They can help keep symptoms of the flu at bay and relieve side effects of cancer treatments. We know that some natural remedies are myths, and some have solid research behind them.
For example, while there is clear evidence that taking zinc can shorten the duration of a cold, we also know that there are some side effects that mean people with diabetes should use zinc products cautiously. Sometimes the risks outweigh the possible benefits. The bottom line is that no medications or supplements should be taken without consulting your doctor.
Here’s a look at how some natural remedies can interact with prescription medications to cause unwelcome side effects or otherwise impact your health. While there are some benefits in natural remedies, if you are taking prescription drugs or have an underlying medical condition, you should speak with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.
St. John’s Wort
This herbal remedy is often used to treat mild depression. However, it can interact with other medications and make them less effective. There have been some cases of unexpected pregnancies when women have taken St. John’s wort while on birth control. In addition, it can interfere with anti-rejection drugs taken by people who have had an organ transplant.
Whole-Leaf Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera is excellent for sunburns, but be careful about eating it. The whole-leaf juice is not the same as juice made from just the gel. Some people claim that aloe vera juice can cure cancer, but there isn’t really any evidence of this. It may, however, cause liver damage in rare cases. Because there are so many types of aloe vera products, it is vital to be aware of what type of product you are using.
Often used as a remedy for anxiety, kava is native to the South Pacific. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates kava as ineffective and even dangerous. The evidence is contradictory, with reports of at least 68 cases reported of liver toxicity from kava use. Some patients may be more at risk than others. In addition, there is a long list of side effects, including gastrointestinal symptoms.
Native to Europe, this plant is usually applied to the skin for wound care and to reduce inflammation. However, it contains chemicals that can cause liver damage, cancer, or lung problems. The oral form has been banned in the United States and other countries. It is sold in ointments and creams, but since the skin can absorb the dangerous pyrrolizidine alkaloids, it should be used sparingly. Do not use it without talking with your doctor.
Despite safety concerns, people use chaparral for digestive problems, skin disorders, arthritis, and respiratory tract conditions. Some even think it can be used to fight cancer. There is no scientific evidence to support these uses. There are several reported incidences of acute hepatitis, acute liver and kidney damage as well as serious poisonings.
Despite serious safety concerns, this flowering plant is used for treating the common cold, fatigue, pneumonia, and as insect repellant, even though there is no scientific evidence that it does any of these things. Taken orally it can cause kidney and liver damage and nervous system damage. It can also cause side effects such as stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, fever, seizures, and more. It is especially unsafe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with kidney or liver disease, and children.
A popular herbal supplement thought to boost the immune system, improve mental health, and reduce the risk of cancer, American ginseng also comes with some severe side effects, including diarrhea, vomiting, anxiety, and high blood pressure. It’s important to speak with your doctor before using this supplement.
The leaves, bark, and seeds of the neem tree have known medicinal properties, such as soothing an upset stomach, reducing fever, asthma, urinary tract disorders, and more. However, if used for an extended period of time, it can become dangerous. Exactly what constitutes an extended period of time is determined by how it is used. When applied to the skin, it should be used for no more than two weeks, or it can cause liver and kidney problems. It should never be used with small children as it can cause seizures, vomiting, and blood disorders.
Valerian root has been used for thousands of years as an anti-anxiety remedy. Although generally safe, it does have a slew of unpleasant side effects such as headache, upset stomach, dizziness, and daytime drowsiness. It should not be used without consulting your doctor and generally for not more than 4-6 weeks.
Grapefruit juice is used by many people as a weight loss aid, to improve their skin, and even to lower their cholesterol. However, the downside to drinking grapefruit juice is some scary side effects. Because it contains a compound that can interfere with liver enzymes, it can also increase the potency of some medications. It can also cause kidney stones in people who are prone to them.
Considered an alternative remedy that can improve cognitive function, treat anxiety, dizziness, and more, there is no scientific evidence that it does any of these things. It does, however, have side effects, including easy bruising, seizures, shallow breathing, upset stomach, dry mouth, and skin rash. It has also increased the risk of thyroid and liver cancer in animal studies.
A Note from GR8NESS
We present this information to help you make an informed decision about your health. Many people use natural remedies to relieve their symptoms or improve their health. Some may be harmless, and some may contain compounds that interfere with medicines you are already taking or are contraindicated for your condition. We do not recommend taking any medication or supplement without the advice of a healthcare professional.