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the herb for longer than recommended.
Keep track of what you take.
Take
only one supplement at a time to determine
if it’s effective. Make a note of what you take
- and how much for how long - and how it
affects you.
How do you know if
herbal supplements’
claims are true?
Manufacturers of herbal supplements are
responsible for ensuring that the claims
they make about their products aren’t false
or misleading and that they’re backed up
by adequate evidence. However, they aren’t
required to submit this evidence to the FDA.
So be a smart consumer and do a little
homework. Don’t just rely on a product’s
marketing. Look for objective, research-
based information to evaluate a product’s
claims. To get reliable information about a
particular supplement:
Ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Even if they don’t know about a specific
supplement, they may be able to point you
to the latest medical guidance about its
uses and risks.
Look for scientific research
findings.
Two good sources include the
National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the
Office of Dietary Supplements. Both have
websites that provide information to help
consumers make informed choices about
dietary supplements.
Contact the manufacturer.
If you
have questions about a specific product,
call the manufacturer or distributor. Ask
to talk with someone who can answer
questions, such as what data the company
has to substantiate its products’ claims.
Who shouldn’t use
herbal supplements?
If you have health issues, it’s essential that
you talk with your doctor before trying
herbal supplements. In fact, in some high-
risk situations, your doctor will likely recom-
mend that you avoid herbal supplements
altogether.
It’s especially important that you talk to your
doctor before using herbal supplements if:
You’re taking prescription or over-
the-counter (OTC) medications.
Some herbs can cause serious side effects
when mixed with prescription and OTC
drugs, such as aspirin, blood thinners or
blood pressure medications. Talk to your
doctor about possible interactions.
You’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
Medications that may be safe for you as an
adult may be harmful to your fetus or your
breast-feeding infant. As a general rule,
don’t take any medications — prescription,
OTC or herbal — when you’re pregnant or
breast-feeding unless your doctor approves.
You’re having surgery.
Many herbal
supplements can affect the success
of surgery. Some may decrease the
effectiveness of anesthetics or cause
dangerous complications, such as bleeding
or high blood pressure. Tell your doctor
about any herbs you’re taking or considering
taking as soon as you know you need
surgery.
You’re younger than 18 or older
than 65.
Older adults may metabolize
medications differently. And few herbal
supplements have been tested on children or
have established safe doses for children.
Safety tips for using
herbal supplements
If you’ve done your homework and plan to try an
herbal supplement, play it safe with these tips:
Follow supplement instructions.
Don’t exceed recommended dosages or take
Be cautious about supplements
manufactured outside the United
States.
Herbal products from some
European countries are highly regulated
and standardized. But toxic ingredients
and prescription drugs have been found
in supplements manufactured elsewhere,
particularly China, India and Mexico.
Check alerts and advisories.
The FDA
and NCCAM maintain lists of supplements
that are under regulatory review or that
have been reported to cause adverse effects.
Check their websites periodically for
updates.
H
July/Aug 2013
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