Herbal Drugs: Personal and social consequences

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 4:04 pm

Doctors and public health advocates repeatedly warn about one negative consequence of using herbal remedies: Patients who use herbs and other alternative treatments are more likely not to take advantage of conventional treatments, and the results of this decision can be disastrous. Many doctors have seen patients with early-stage cancer who decided to treat themselves with herbal drugs rather than undergo conventional cancer treatment such as chemotherapy. When the herbal treatments failed, the patients returned to their doctors, but by that time their cancers had progressed to the stage where they were incurable.
Doctors warn that people who take herbals may also be more likely to continue unhealthy behavior, such as smoking or drinking large amounts of alcohol, with the mistaken belief that their herbal remedies will protect them from the negative consequences.
A person is probably more likely to accidentally overdose on an herbal drug than on a prescribed drug. Because the potency of herbal drugs can vary so widely from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from batch to batch, users never know how much of what substances they are ingesting when they take herbal drugs. Also, many people assume that because herbals are “natural,” they are safe. Additionally, they might assume that “if a small amount is good, more must be better.” People who continue to feel sick after they have started taking an herbal may end up increasing the dose to dangerous levels.

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