Many people take supplements and herbal medicines for a variety of reasons. They want to feel better. They want to help cure areas of their body that are giving them trouble. They want to lose weight. They want to make sure they’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients that they’re supposed to. They want their skin to feel better. They want to stop bad habits. They want to live longer and healthier overall.
These are all well and good. Unfortunately, sometimes these things can actually hurt us in some fashion, and it’s not necessarily because it’s the item itself. For instance, many of the companies that produce some of these things aren’t licensed. Since they don’t need FDA approval, as they’re not calling themselves medicine but foodstuffs, no one is always sure what’s in the item. A Chinese herbal cream was tested in London and was found to contain high amounts of steroids. Another test on ginkgo bilboa was found to have significant amounts of impurities that could cause more harm than good. And, there was the stimulant scare of the 90′s where many of these stimulants contained higher than needed amounts of both ephedrine and phen-phen, which injured a lot of people and even killed some of them.
The problem here is that there are many companies that will jump on the money bandwagon and start cranking out the same types of supplements that other companies are making, since none of these items can be protected under patents, and they may cut corners in the processing. This puts people at risk from unscrupulous makers, and even the natural foods stores where many of these items can be purchased might not know that the factories these products were made at aren’t up to standard.
Another problem with some of these things is that they can sometimes counteract against pharmaceuticals that physicians have prescribed for their patients. For instance, CoQ10 has been accused of diluting the effect of some diabetic medications. In cases like this, many patients don’t tell their physicians that they’re taking supplements or herbal medicines, so physicians are prescribing medications without having enough knowledge of the patient to know whether those medications will be effective enough.
Overall, consumers need to first tell their doctors everything they’re taking, even if it’s just over the counter vitamins. They also need to ask questions about many of the products they’re ready to consume, and not take everything a sales person tells them at face value. Ultimately, we’re all responsible for our own health.