Herbs & Supplements
Some people may have a misconception that holistic medicine professionals
automatically believe that all herbs and dietary supplements are safe and
healthy for general use. The truth is that opinions about herbs
and supplements vary considerably from one practitioner to another. Within
the general public, opinions vary widely as well. Below are a few ideas to
consider as things to avoid.
- Sleep Aids
I would eventually move away from the regular use of melatonin
or L-tryptophan if possible. There are too many questions about
long-term human use. They may not present a major hazard, but I
believe it is much better to at least look into other solutions.
Obviously, for people with FMS or other conditions where sleep
disorders are common, the use of these supplements can be "life-savers"
and they should be used without guilt until replacements are found.
I would suggest considering a relaxed look
at other alternatives that may be safer, promote a deeper sleep, and
help towards a more permanent solution. For example, some people have had
success with herbal formulas obtained from an experienced Oriental Medicine
practitioner/Chinese Herbalist. In some cases, techniques learned from
an experienced qi gong instructor can prove helpful. Keeping a regular
sleep schedule can prove helpful. There are many possible natural treatments
that one could consider.
- Latest Fad Supplement / Herb
It is a good idea to avoid getting involved in the latest fad
like gingko for "brain power" or ephedra for "energy" or
supplement xxx for "life extension", or "oat bran" for heart
health, etc. In some cases, a thoughtful, educated choice may
lead to the use of one of these or other
supplements and herbs. But some people just jump from
one fad to the next without any grounding in holistic healing
fundamentals. Hopefully, the files on the
Holistic Healing Web Page
will give you a more balanced view.
- Standardized Herbal Medicines
There is nothing wrong with the ocassional use of a standardized herbal
medicine (e.g., saw palmetto for enlarged prostrate, St. John's Wort for
depression, etc.). Please keep in mind, however, there there are a number
of drawbacks of taking herbs this way that could lead to health problems.
I will present some of the drawbacks and then some ideas for healthier
- A properly-chosen herbal medicine (e.g., herbal formula) is usually more
effective in the long run.
- A single herb taken because it is said to help a particular disease tends
to cause a higher percentage of adverse reactions and can throw the body's
energy system or biochemistry out of balance.
- Standardized herbs may be standardized on the wrong chemical(s) and
can easily be less effective or less safe over the long term. It is a false
sense of security. Chinese and Ayurvedic Herbalists don't rely on standardized
herbs and they are very effective because they rely on more important factors
(e.g., energetic balance).
I would not completely avoid standardized herbal medicines, but I
would suggest taking the time to learn a little bit about how real herbalists
provide successful solutions and how you can use this knowledge to make more
appropriate and more effective use of herbal medicine.
- Stimulants & Laxatives
I would suggest steering clear of the improper use of stimulants in supplement
and herbal products. I also suggest avoiding the habitual use of herbal
laxatives. Examples would include:
- Over use of Ma huang
- Regular use of caffeine-containing herbs (e.g., guarana)
- Using large amounts of licorice root
- Megadoses of vitamins
In general, I do not think it is a good idea to use megadoses of vitamins
without a very good reason (and hopes at life extension is not what I consider
a good reason). It is better to eventually move towards gradually building
health so that megadoses of vitamins are not necessary.
- Glandular Formulas
Glandular Formulas containing animal organ glands have definately helped
some people. However, I would suggest avoiding the use of such formulas
until you discuss the use of the formula with an experienced holistic healthcare
- Herbal Contraindications in Pregnancy or Health Disorders
Online information about herbs and contraindications can be found in the
Herbal-Medical Contraindications article by Michael Moore and on the
Herbal FAQ web
There are many excellent sources of information for herbs and dietary supplements.
For supplements, please see the
Food & Nutrition article on this web page for a discussion of supplements. The
resource section of this article includes a list of some good books related to herbs
and supplementation. The Herbal Bookworm
web page has excellent reviews and a
Reader's Top Ten Page to help with choosing the best Herbal books.