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A common misconception about the use of 'natural' products/ herbs in general, is that 'natural' equals safe. However many plants have chemical defence mechanisms against predators that can have adverse or lethal effects on humans.

Herbs can also have undesirable side-effects just as pharmaceutical products can. These problems are exacerbated by lack of control over dosage and purity. Furthermore, if given in conjunction with drugs, there is danger of 'summation', where the herb and the drug have similar actions and add together to make an 'overdose'.

This is where your naturopath or herbalist would be most helpful as they would not only have the knowledge of the right herbs to use, but also would be aware of contraindications of the herbs chosen with other medicines and the best times to take them. Naturopathic doctors generally prescribe specific single herbs or combinations of herbs to be taken in the forms described above along with other natural modalities.

Most naturopaths use parts of plants, such as the roots or leaves but do not isolate particular phytochemicals as the synergy of the combined substances enhances the efficacy and dilutes toxicity for example Vitamin C from a freshly cut orange is more complete and balanced for the body than the Vitamin C purchased off the shelf which is generally a pharmaceutical form. Western medicine prefers single ingredients on the grounds that dosage can be more easily quantified.


In consultation with a physician, usage of herbal remedies should be clarified, as some herbal remedies have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when used in combination with various prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. For example, dangerously low blood pressure may result from the combination of an herbal remedy that lowers blood pressure together with prescription medicine that has the same effect. In particular, most herbs should be avoided during pregnancy.

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