While herbal medicine is considered safe, herbs are contraindicated with certain drugs, as they may possibly reduce the efficacy of the drug or clear it out of the system. A qualified herbalist would be able to advice you on the right blend taking into consideration your own situation and needs. Self-prescribing can be potentially very reckless.
Potential issues with herbal medicines
If you're taking or plan to take any herbal medicines, be aware of the following:
- They may cause problems if you're taking other medicines.They could result in reduced or enhanced effects of the medicine(s), including potential side effects.
- You may experience a bad reaction or side effects after taking a herbal medicine.
- Not all herbal medicines are regulated. Remedies specially prepared for individuals don't need a licence and those manufactured outside the UK may not be subject to regulation.
- Evidence for the effectiveness of herbal medicines is generally very limited. Although some people find them helpful, in many cases their use tends to be based on traditional use rather than scientific research.
Certain groups of people should be particularly wary of taking herbal medicines (see below).
Who should avoid herbal medicines?
Taking a herbal medicine may not be suitable for:
- people taking other medicines
- people with serious health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease
- people due to have surgery (see below)
- pregnant or breastfeeding women
- the elderly
- children – as with as with all medicines, herbal medicines should be kept out of sight and reach of children
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice before trying a herbal medicine if you fall into one of these groups.
Herbal medicines and surgery
It's important to tell your doctor if you take any herbal medicines before undergoing surgery.
This is because:
- some herbal medicines might interfere with anaesthesia and other medicines used before, during or after procedures
- some herbal medicines may interfere with blood clotting and blood pressure, which may increase the risk of bleeding during or after surgery
Your doctor may therefore advise you to stop taking any herbal medicines during the weeks leading up to your operation.