We’re probably all familiar with this situation: you post on social media that you’re battling a headache, injury, or other health issue and you get a slew of responses to try herbal supplements or other complementary remedies. While your loved ones are surely coming from a well-meaning place, it is important that you proceed with caution when it comes to herbal supplements.

At Albemarle Square Family Health, we provide healthcare to Charlottesville residents from pediatric care to geriatric care, and everything in between. You can rely on us for a range of healthcare services utilizing a range of approaches and technological methods. To make an appointment, contact us today!

To learn more about the safety of herbal supplements, read on!

Natural Does Not Necessarily Mean Safe

Many people take for granted that just because you’re ingesting a supplement that comes from a plant or flower, it’s completely safe. Keep in mind that aspirin comes from willow bark, and can thin the blood to unsafe levels when not monitored by a healthcare provider.  Iron can reach toxic levels in the blood and cause a heart attack. Cocaine is a controlled substance that can cause death, and it comes from a coca leaf. Even grapefruit can disrupt the efficacy of prescription drugs! All of these supplements are “natural” and can have devastating effects on the body. Many supplements sold on the market are misused because consumers take for granted the claim that they are all-natural and organic and so on. Even some of the safest supplements can reach toxic levels in the body if a safe dose isn’t determined by your medical provider. Before you take any supplement, contact your provider to discuss the dose, safety, and possible side effects.

They Can Interfere With Prescription Medications

You might have read that a particular supplement can reduce or treat your migraines, and start taking it with your prescription medications to enhance the effects. While there are certainly supplements that we recommend taking to help certain conditions, we don’t recommend starting something without consulting with us first. Supplements have the ability to interfere with the prescription medications you’re already taking, which can put you in an unhealthy situation. They can create serious drug interactions that can lead to health consequences or can reduce the efficacy of your medications. In fact, some have been shown to interfere with birth control pills. Check with your provider before taking anything new.

They Are Not Regulated

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements in the same way it regulates prescription drugs. They are considered a food, and so their claims aren’t evaluated with the same rigorous standards as prescription drugs. Additionally, there isn’t the same oversight to definitively determine if a supplement that claims to have 400mg of an ingredient actually does have that amount—it could end up being more or less. It’s important to understand how the supplement’s manufacturer tests, studies, and quality checks their supplements prior to entering the market. This resource from the USDA is a great place to start: https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/general-information-and-resources-dietary-supplements 

Are we saying that you can’t use supplements? No! But we do want you to proceed with caution and treat them with the same care you would a prescription drug. Whether it’s a supplement you ingest, a topical solution you rub in, or an essential oil, taking care is important to your health.

Contact Albemarle Square Family Health today!