Professor Roger Byard, a forensic pathologist at the University of Adelaide, says that many herbal remedies contain extremely toxic ingredients. Many people mistakenly believe that herbal remedies are safer than prescription drugs, while in fact herbal medicines may contain an increased amount of arsenic, mercury and lead.
When taken in large quantities, injected rather than ingested or combined with prescription drugs, they may cause serious problems, worsen health condition and even lead to death.
Professor Byard warns that the herbal remedies and prescription drugs interactions can be especially dangerous. A lot of people, who take herbal medicines, do not inform their doctor about using them out of fear that they will look ridiculous, which makes the situation even more complicated in case of death. Besides, some people think that so called natural remedies will increase the effectiveness of prescription drugs, which can lead to bad consequences.
The US study of Asian herbal products revealed that 36 out of 251 remedies contained arsenic, 35 had mercury and 24 contained lead.
Herbal Remedies and Prescription Medicines Interactions
The side effects of herbal remedies and prescription drugs taken together can include kidney, liver and heart failure, stroke, seizure, and movement disorders.
Professor sites a number of cases when herbal remedies and d interactions led to serious health problems.
For example, the natural remedy Chan Su, recommended for the treatment of sore throats, boils and heart palpitations was found to have poisonous secretions of Chinese toads, which can lead to cardiac arrest and coma.
One case included a patient, who had epilepsy and took Chinese herbal products together with prescription drugs, which led to coma.
The combinations of steroids and herbal remedies may even lead to hormonal disorders, such as Cushing syndrome.
The well-known herbal remedy St John's Wort, used to treat depression, is known to lower the effect of warfarin, an anticoagulant drug. While women on birth control pills, taking St John's Wort, may have breakthrough bleeding.
Popular herbal remedies such as gingko and garlic should not be taken with anticoagulants as this combination increases the risk of bleeding.
Epileptic patients should not take natural remedies containing Borage Oil and Evening Primrose Oil as they decrease the seizure threshold.
People also should be cautious about using herbal medicines, if they plan a surgery and stop using them at least two weeks before the surgical procedures because it can lead to such consequences as hemorrhaging.