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Herb and Spices Uses, Claims, and Risks

One has to remember even though herbs are natural that doesn't always necessarily prove their safety any more than laying in a bed of poison ivy would benefit your skin. Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Having said that though there are a lot of herbs that are generally considered safe, and may have great health benefits. It pays to do lots of research, and talk to your doctor about any herbal supplements you might be considering taking. Below are just some well known herbs with their uses, claims, and possible risks.

Herbs Claims and Uses Risks
Aloe (gel) promotes wound healing generally considered safe
Black cohosh ease menopause symptoms may cause clotting in blood vessels of the eye change the curvature of the cornea
Chamomile (flowers) relieve indigestion generally considered safe
Chaparral (leaves and twigs) slow aging, cleanse blood, heal wounds, cure cancer, treat acne acute, toxic hepatitis; liver damage
Comfrey (leafy plant) soothes nerves liver damage
Cumin  enhance memory and relieve stress  
Echinacea (roots)  alleviate symptoms of colds, flus, and infections; promote wound healing; boost immunity generally considered safe; may cause headache, dizziness, nausea
Ephedra promote weight loss rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures, insomnia, headaches, hypertension
Feverfew prevent migraine headaches generally considered safe; may cause mouth irritation, swelling, ulcers, and GI distress
Garlic (bulbs) lower blood lipids and blood pressure, testosterone booster generally considered safe, may cause garlic breath, body odor, gas, and GI distress; inhibits blood clotting
Ginger prevent motion sickness nausea generally considered safe
Ginkgo (tree leaves) improve memory, relieve vertigo generally considered safe, may cause headache, GI distress, dizziness; may inhibit blood clotting
Ginseng (roots) boost immunity, increase endurance generally considered safe; may cause insomnia and high blood pressure
Goldenseal (roots) relieve indigestion,  treat urinary infections generally considered safe, not safe for people with hypertension or heart disease
Kava relieves anxiety, promotes relaxation liver failure
Saw Palmetto relieves symptoms of enlarged prostate; diuretic; enhance sexual vigor generally considered safe, may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
St. John's wort(leaves and tops) relieve depression and anxiety generally considered safe; may cause fatigue and GI distress
Valerian (roots) calm nerves, improve sleep long term use associated with liver damage
Yohimbe (tree bark) enhance male performance kidney failure, seizures

Possible Herb Drug Interactions

Some herbs and their possible interactions with drugs. As always it is recommended that a person talk to their doctor about any herbal supplement and do research as much as possible.


Herb Drug Interaction
American ginseng estrogens, corticosteroids enhance hormonal response
American ginseng breast cancer therapeutic agent synergistically inhibits cancer cell growth
American ginseng, karela blood glucose regulators affect blood glucose
Echinacea (possible immunostimulant ) cyclosporine and corticosteroids (immunosuppressants) may reduce drug effectiveness
Evening primrose oil, borage anticonvulsants lower seizure threshold
Feverfew aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs Negates the effect of the herb in treating migraine headaches
Feverfew, garlic, ginkgo, ginger, and Asian ginseng warfarin, coumarin (anticlotting drugs, blood  thinners) Prolong bleeding time; increase likelihood of hemorrhage
Garlic protease inhibitor (HIV drug) may reduce drug effectiveness
Kava, valerian anesthetics may enhance drug action
Kelp (iodine source) synthroid or other thyroid hormone replacers interferes with drug action
Kyushin, licorice, plantain, uzara root, hawthorn, Asian ginseng digoxin (cardiac antiarrhythmic drug derived from the herb foxglove) interfere with drug action and monitoring
St. John's wort, saw palmetto, black tea Iron tannins in herbs inhibit iron absorption
St. John's wort protease inhibitor (HIV drugs, warfarin (anticlotting drug), digoxin (cardiac antiarrhytmic drug) oral contraceptives, tamoxifen (breast cancer drug) may enhance or reduce drug effectiveness
Valerian barbituates causes excessive sedation


sources: Understanding Nutrition


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