Any herbal supplement or remedy could potentially cause organ damage or have dangerous interactions with other medications you may be taking. That’s why US-based Ehsan Ali, MD, also known as The Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, recommends you ask your doctor before popping any herbal pill or natural cure.
“All patients of all ages check with their doctor first about what home remedy they want to try. Better safe than sorry!”
He warns all his patients that many herbal supplements are not tested by the US FDA and may have many potential risks and side effects.
1. St John’s Wort
This herb is touted as a treatment for depression, but comprehensive studies are lacking.
Dangers can arise when patients are already taking other medications.
There have been incidents of St John’s Wort interrupting the effectiveness of contraceptives like birth control pills and leading to unintended pregnancies.
The US-based National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that St John’s Wort can interfere with many medications, including anti-rejection drugs after organ transplants and warns, “It has been clearly shown that St. John’s Wort can interact in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening ways with a variety of medicines.”
So-called natural remedies can have side effects and sometimes affect either your blood pressure or the way your blood pressure medication is working.
This herb, grown on South Pacific islands is often suggested for anxiety.
It has been found to have a calming effect similar to Valium.
However, Kava has caused liver failure in otherwise healthy people and can cause allergic reactions.
Wondering if your neuroses, phobias and eccentricities are normal?
Never fear; you’re in good company, according to our panel of experts.
3. Kitchen cures for burns
Kitchen cures can seem harmless and certainly, food products can make gentle and effective beauty treatments, such as avocado or honey masks for skin and hair.
But when a person has an injury or disease, natural products can do more harm than good.
Svetlana Kogan, MD, author and physician, has unfortunately heard of many potentially dangerous cures for injuries, including applying egg whites to burns.
Egg whites, especially organic ones, are full of bacteria and can introduce harmful contaminants to the body, including potentially salmonella.
Instead, minor burns can be treated at home with water and acetaminophen for pain.
Save the eggs to make this delicious soufflé.
4. Gargling with mouthwash
The common cold continues to confound doctors and there’s not much sufferers can do except stay hydrated.
But when the symptoms progress to an inflamed throat the common practice of gargling with mouthwash can do more harm than good.
Dr. Kogan says, “Gargling inflamed tonsils with mouthwash is actually very irritating to the area and does not have any effect on potential strep throat.”
The best treatment for a sore throat is warm liquids to soothe the inflamed area and getting plenty of rest.
Soup made with a hot, thin broth (either vegetable- or chicken-stock base), with garlic, herbs, and vegetables, plus hot green tea with honey is ideal for a sore throat.
You could be forgiven for thinking that money can indeed cure a variety of illnesses, or at least allow you to afford the best medical care.
But some people literally use currency to try and cure ailments.
Putting a coin or other hard, flat object on a baby’s belly to help heal an umbilical hernia has been a common practice in many different cultures for years but it is not as safe as people think.
Dr. Fisher explains, “An umbilical hernia is a gap in the layer of muscle in the abdominal wall (called the rectus abdominus muscle). The muscle usually grows together and the hernia goes away on its own in more than 90 per cent of babies who are born with it. Having an object strapped to the baby’s belly is not advisable because it can cause a skin infection as well as the fact that it doesn’t change the hernia or hasten its healing.”
(Not to mention that coins can be pretty dirty and are a choking hazard for your baby.)
So what should you do if your baby has an umbilical hernia?
Nothing, but watchful waiting and of course consulting with your child’s pediatrician.
Save your coins. Better yet, start a coin jar with the fortune you save on your next grocery bill.
6. Breast milk
Mother’s milk, often called “liquid gold,” is the best possible natural food for babies but its use as a healing agent lacks scientific studies.
Although many mums claim their milk clears up skin conditions, it is unwise to apply another person’s breast milk to an injury or infection.
US-based Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, OB/GYN at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles warns, “Breast milk can transmit infectious diseases such as HIV and pumped breast milk if not stored properly can be contaminated and can actually introduce bacteria into an already infected area.”
Dr. Yamaguchi instead advises patients suffering from infections or inflamed skin to keep the area clean and dry and seek medical attention.
7. Castor oil
In her work as an obstetrician, Dr. Yamaguchi has seen her fair share of women in the final stages of pregnancy who just cannot wait to have their baby.
She has seen many women take castor oil believing it will jump start labor.
“Castor oil may help if you are constipated and need to pass a bowel movement, but it’s not going to help you go into labor and tastes awful.”
What’s a better solution for those suffering from constipation?
Increasing fibre intake, including trying prunes and prune juice.
Fibre, simply put, is the stuff in plants that your body can’t digest. It’s the husks on the grains and the stringy threads in celery.
8. Syrup of Ipecac
This syrup, made from the roots of a South American plant, is often kept in the home by parents to act as a counter treatment for accidental poisoning, as it induces vomiting.
However, this form of treatment is incredibly dangerous.
Many poisons do further damage when they make their way out of the body, damaging the esophagus and potentially causing breathing problems.
Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, Chair of Pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, advises parents not to use Syrup of Ipecac at all.
Dr. Fisher warns that the only appropriate reaction to a child swallowing something poisonous is to call Poison Control immediately and seek medical treatment.
Activated charcoal, often derived from coconut shells, is thought to trap and remove dangerous toxins from the body.
It is often recommended for treating bloating and constipation.
However, it is a controversial treatment.
Dr. Kogan has heard of patients swallowing activated charcoal for detoxification purposes, which she strongly discourages.
“It is plain dangerous because it can cause life-threatening intestinal obstructions and severe dehydration.”
Eating well and drinking plenty of water can have similar, but safer, detoxification effects on the body.
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10. Blowing on or licking a wound
Mothers everywhere are known for spitting on a tissue and using it to clean their children’s faces and sometimes even to clean a wound.
Blowing on or introducing saliva to a cut is very dangerous.
Dr. Kogan warns, “Our breath and saliva have tons of bacteria which can contaminate the wound and lead to an infection.” Instead, use fresh water and consult a doctor if needed.
Good health can be enhanced and illness prevented or treated in simple ways that anyone can manage. This mix of traditional wisdom and new scientific discoveries can help you stay fit and healthy for life.
A healthy diet should provide all the vitamins and minerals that we need.
However, sometimes our busy lives interfere with our ability to get the right nutrition for our bodies.
In these cases, a vitamin pill can fill the gap and ensure optimum health.
The danger comes when people ignore the recommended doses and take too much of a particular vitamin.
Too much Vitamin D can cause liver and heart problems, while an overabundance of B6 can lead to nerve toxicity, and a vitamin A overdose can even cause death in extreme cases.
Natural or homemade remedies can be an excellent complement to traditional medicine.
However, it’s always wise to check with your doctor before taking any medical treatment whether or not it’s natural.
Looking to add a dish into your repetoire packed with vitamins? Give these Asian vegetables a go.
This article appeared on Reader's Digest.