What you should know about herbal supplements

What you should know about herbal supplements

Herbs have been used for thousands of years by cultures the world over to improve mind and body health. Many herbal supplements can be beneficial to your health, but it is very important to consult with your physician before you decide to take any type of herbal supplement.

While herbal supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), makers of these supplements only have to follow regulations regarding manufacturing practices related to product consistency and standards of quality. Unlike medications bought at your local pharmacy or prescribed by a doctor, herbal supplements do not require FDA approval before going to market.

However, the FDA is responsible for monitoring supplements once on the market to ensure they are safe for consumer use. If the FDA finds a product unsafe, it can take action against the distributor and manufacturer of the product, which can include having the product taken off the market. The regulations in place ensure that herbal supplements must meet certain quality standards, and if they are deemed dangerous, the FDA can take appropriate action.

This does not mean all herbal supplements are safe for everyone to take. Many supplements contain active ingredients that produce strong side effects, and if they are taken in conjunction with prescription medications, they can cause very serious medical complications. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking any type of herbal supplements, even if the product labeling does not indicate any type of strong and/or adverse side effects.

Because the FDA does have oversight, every supplement on the market is labeled with the following information:

  •     The name of the herbal supplement
  •     The name and address of manufacturer or distributor
  •     A complete list of ingredients, either in the Supplement Facts panel or listed beneath it
  •     Serving size, amount and active ingredient

While it is important to remember that the makers of herbal supplements are responsible for the claims they make about their products and all claims have to be backed by adequate evidence, manufacturers do not have to submit their evidence for approval to the FDA.

As an educated, health conscious consumer, you should always conduct your own research before buying any type of herbal supplement. Look for scientifically-based research studies that objectively evaluate any product's active ingredients and stated benefits. Two good source of information are National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

If you are dealing with serious medical issues; are taking over-the-counter or prescribed medications; are pregnant or breast-feeding; have recently had surgery; or are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65, you should not take herbal supplements unless specifically recommended and monitored by your personal physician.

After having done your due diligence and consulted with your doctor, if you do decide to take an herbal supplement, practice these safety tips:

  • Follow all instructions and don't exceed recommended dosages.
  • Don't take any herbal supplement longer than is recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Keep track of what you take, how often you take it, the dosage and any side effects you notice.
  • Take extra caution with products produced outside the United States. While many herbal products made in Europe are highly regulated, those made in China, India, Mexico and other countries are not.
  • Monitor the websites of both the FDA and NCCAM for product alerts, notices and recalls.

Posted: 4/23/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: Alternative, Dietary, FDA, Herbal, Medicine, Nutrition, Supplements

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