4 Safety Considerations When Using Herbal Supplements

1. “Natural” does not mean safe

It’s important to know that just because an herbal supplement is labeled “natural” does not mean it is safe or without any harmful effects. For example, the herbs kava and comfrey have been linked to serious liver damage. 

2. Pregnant or nursing women should be cautious

Women who are pregnant or nursing should be especially cautious about using herbal supplements. There is limited information about the safety of herbs during pregnancy and active ingredients of herbs can possibly be passed to the baby while breastfeeding.

Supplements regulations have historically not been well-enforced and could be contaminated with heavy metals and undisclosed ingredients. This caution also applies to treating children with herbal supplements.

3. Consult your health care provider or Care Team

Consult your health care provider or Trellus Health Care Team before using an herbal supplement, especially if you are taking any medications (whether prescription or over the counter). Some herbal supplements are known to interact with medications in ways that can cause health problems.  

Even if your provider does not know about a particular supplement, they can access the latest medical guidance on its uses, risks, and interactions.

4. Herbs can have negative interactions with health conditions

Consult with your doctor or Care Team before taking herbal supplements if you have the following disorders: 

  • Allergies 
  • Blood clotting problems 
  • Diabetes 
  • Enlarged prostate 
  • Epilepsy 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Heart disease 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Psychiatric problems 
  • Stroke at some time in the past 
  • Thyroid problems 

Certain herbal supplements can negatively interact with these conditions or the drugs used to manage them. 

Source: Messina BA. Herbal supplements: Facts and myths–talking to your patients about herbal supplements. J Perianesth Nurs. 2006 Aug.