Herbal medicines are those with active ingredients made from plant parts, such as leaves, roots or flowers. But being “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe for you to take.
Just like conventional medicines, herbal medicines will have an effect on the body, and can be potentially harmful if not used correctly. They should therefore be used with the same care and respect as conventional medicines.
Herbal medicines are widely used in the United States, with approximately one quarter of adults reporting use of an herb to treat a medical illness within the past year. Herbs contain complicated mixtures of organic chemicals, the levels of which may vary substantially depending upon many factors related to the growth, production, and processing of the herbal product.
The FDA considers herbal supplements foods, not drugs. Therefore, they are not subject to the same testing, manufacturing, and labeling standards and regulations as drugs.
You can now see labels that explain how herbs can influence different actions in the body. However, herbal supplement labels can’t refer to treating specific medical conditions. This is because herbal supplements are not subject to clinical trials or to the same manufacturing standards as prescription or traditional over-the-counter drugs.
For example, St. John’s wort is a popular herbal supplement thought to be useful for treating depression in some cases. A product label on St. John’s wort might say, “enhances mood,” but it cannot claim to treat a specific condition, such as depression.
Herbal supplements, unlike medicines, are not required to be standardized to ensure batch-to-batch consistency. Some manufacturers may use the word standardized on a supplement label, but it does not necessarily mean the same thing from one manufacturer to the next.
Communicate with Us about Using Herbs and Dietary Supplements. The About Herbs mobile app provides you with comprehensive, objective information about herbs, botanicals, supplements, complementary therapies, and more.
It’s important to tell your doctor or another qualified professional that you are using a dietary supplement. The reason for this is that an active ingredient in the product could interact with — increase or lessen — the effect of other medicines you’re taking.
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