I talk to a lot of people about herbal remedies. I’m surprised by two things. One is how much many lay people already know. The other is the gaps in their knowledge. Like medications, herbs can be safe for some and not so much for others. See how you do on this true/false quiz:
1) Aloe is good for everyone.
2) Blue cohosh can be deadly.
3) Chamomile can help you relax at the end of a stressful day.
4) Fennel is good for lactating women.
5) Garlic can help reduce blood pressure.
6) Diabetics can take licorice.
7) Parsley helps get rid of garlic breath.
8) Red yeast rice is safe for everyone.
9) St. John’s Wort should not be taken if you are being treated for a heart condition.
10) Sage can dry up milk in nursing mothers.
How do you think you did? Let’s find out.
Aloe is good for Everyone: True, conditionally. Unless you are allergic, aloe can be used on the skin by most people. However, if it is ingested, problems will occur. Unless it has been removed, there are two types of glycosides in the sap. One is a digestive irritant that can cause bloating, massive cramps and explosive diarrhea. The other is cardiac in nature and could cause problems, especially if you already have a heart condition.
Blue Cohosh can be deadly: True. This herb has been used in the past to speed delivery. It also has a tendency to deliver you from life. It causes an increase in blood pressure for both mother and child. Infants have been born in the process of having a heart attack. I do not recommend it.
Chamomile can help you relax at the end of a stressful day: True. Chamomile is on the GRAS list (generally recognized as safe), and it may be a better option than alcohol. It can cause drowsiness and interact with some medications.
Fennel is good for lactating women: False. A few years ago, the answer might have been true. It has been used for centuries to encourage milk flow, but a problem has come up. If mom drinks a tea of it, there is a chance it will cause a serious neurological problem in the baby.
Garlic can help reduce blood pressure: True. It may also help with cholesterol and act as a mild antibiotic. It is a blood thinner, so use caution if you have clotting problems or you take blood thinning medications.
Diabetics can take licorice: True, conditionally. A processed form of licorice, called DGL, can be safely used. The plant itself is too high in sugar to use safely otherwise. People with high blood pressure should avoid it, as it can cause the BP to go up.
Parsley gets rid of garlic breath: True. Have you ever wondered why brushing your teeth and gargling with mouthwash simply does not eliminate the odor? It’s because it’s in your saliva. Garlic breath has to be treated in the stomach, not the mouth. That’s why so many supplements have parsley in them. Do not use parsley for this purpose if you are pregnant, as it could cause premature labor or a miscarriage.
Red yeast rice is safe for everyone: False. First off, this is a product you should use under supervision. It is a statin, and can have many interactions. If you’re already taking a prescription statin, it could be worse. Also, avoid using goldenseal if you choose to take red yeast rice, as it can cause serious muscle damage and renal failure.
St. John’s Wort should not be taken if you are being treated for a heart condition: True. This herbal antidepressant can interact with medications for the heart and put you at risk for a heart attack.
Sage can dry up milk in nursing mothers: True. When it comes time to wean the baby, this can help make the process less painful for you. If you don’t want to dry it up, only use sage in food amounts.