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Herbs are well known plants that find their use in different fields, for instance they can serve as food, medicine, flavor or supplement. Those plants had been following humankind for centuries, but their medical use is still considered as an alternative medicine. They are slowly becoming more popular, and are available in various forms, such as capsules, tablets, powders, tea bags or liquids. It needs to be said, that just like in case of supplements, herbs do not go through rigorous testing. If a patient do not have enough knowledge or experience, they can be dangerous for general health and interfere with certain medications.
Herbs effectiveness and possible side effects
Herbal medicine can be used to improve many different disorders, including chronic diseases like cancer or allergy. They can be administrated in various forms, but most frequently they are available as a liquid. Each herb can act differently and some of them are not recommended for the patients, as they might be toxic or interfere with certain medications or therapies. But still, some of them are confirmed to have great features. For example, Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) can improve common cold or fever, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) can help to maintain proper blood flow and St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) can act as an antidepressant. On the other side, they can cause some serious side effects. Herbs like kava kava (Piper methysticum), ginkgo, ginger (Zingiber officinale) or valerian (Valeriana officinalis) need to be administrated carefully, and preferably under specialist’s supervision. Common side effects include ailments like fatigue, hypersomnia (sleepiness), liver toxicity, increased tendency to bleed or even result in allergic reaction.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) herbs are dietary supplements, and supplements are treated almost like food when it comes to testing. The FDA does not verify herbs effectiveness in terms of treatment or prevention of the diseases. In Europe, however, herbs belong to drugs, thus regulations are very restrictive. One have to be careful, and choose wisely between different manufacturers. Herbs from unknown or strange source may be contaminated, have high levels of heavy metals or their content may be inconsistent with the label.
Consultation with specialist is highly recommended before purchasing. Some types of herbs can interfere with certain medications or therapies. They can even increase bleeding tendency, which is unwanted before, during or after surgery. Women that are pregnant or nursing should not use herbs unless the doctor allow, because some of them are not tested, or tested with bad results, on fetus and infants.
The most popular herbs
Herbs prevalence is various in specific parts of the world. Each continent has its own herbal medicine history and traditions. Some of them are banned in certain countries, due to possible risks and side effects.
The most popular herbs around the world include:
- German Chamomile – this herb can improve gastrointestinal tract disorders, help to fall asleep and keeps skin in good condition.
- Aloe Vera –helps to regenerate skin.
- Peppermint – potentially, it can be helpful for irritable bowel syndrome treatment. Peppermint oil can be also used to relieve the pain.
- Garlic – it can be beneficial for cardiovascular system, because it lowers cholesterol level. What is more, it may prevent certain types of cancer and boost up immune system.
- Oregano – it acts like antibiotic in certain conditions.
- Melissa – this herb is used for gastrointestinal tract and nervous system disorders treatment.