Hello Herb, goodbye Valium
SUMMIT COUNTY – These days, as many people are as likely to have heard of chamomile tea as a relaxant as they are to have heard of Valium.As herbal remedies become more mainstream, people are turning to them as an alternative or as a complement to prescription drugs. The most common need Lacey Story, a Frisco acupuncturist, sees in her clients is stress management, so she recommends herbs that act as relaxants.DangersWhile most of the time herbal remedies are safe, there are some precautions to take.For example, a recent visitor to Summit County had a seizure after taking gingko biloba for mild altitude sickness. He didn’t know that the blood-thinning medication he was on, Coumadin, had interactions with a number of medications and herbs – gingko being one of them.”Though most botanicals are safe, we do hear negative news about herbs: Kava-kava causing liver damage, gingko causing hemorrhage and ephedra causing death,” said Kim Nearpass, a natropath in Frisco.
She says most of the negative effects occur because people use an herb improperly. For example, they may take too high of a dose, use isolated extracts of the herb or improperly combine herbs with pharmaceutical medications. She tells people who suffer from disease, take prescription drugs, are pregnant or have questions to consult a health care professional. Let’s face it: It wouldn’t be wise to take large doses of Valium or mix it with other drugs you don’t know much about, so why would you do that with herbs?BenefitsThat said, studies have shown that herbs can be effective in treating a variety of ailments. “History also provides ample information,” Nearpass said. “As far back as we know, humans have used herbal medicine to treat ailments. If herbs were inherently dangerous, we’d probably have rendered ourselves extinct by now.”One benefit of herbs is that they generally don’t have side effects like most prescription drugs. In general, prescription medications work because they block biochemical pathways. This inhibits functions downstream from the specific pathway, causing side effects.Herbs usually work by enhancing rather than blocking pathways.
“The result is usually a much gentler result, with fewer undesirable effects,” Nearpass said. Drugs that came into wide use as medicine tried to control or cure diseases modern living created by exposing people to more toxins, such as pesticides, plastics, heavy metals and chlorofluorocarbon and eating processed foods with additives, she said.Dealing with limitationsPrescription drugs are controlled. Herbs only are loosely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration; they have very little quality control. Though a regulation called the Good Manufacturing Process does place guidelines on the production of herbal supplementation, companies are not required to adhere to these practices.”The effectiveness of the treatment depends on the entire process of herbal growth and processing,” Story said. “It depends on the soil, the geographic area, how it’s harvested, and how it’s processed.”So how do you know if an herbal product is any good, or if it even contains the herb it says it does?
“Unfortunately, you don’t,” Nearpass said.But health care professionals who deal with herbs research companies and use only those they trust. They look for companies that ethically harvest, farm and self-monitor their products through strict laboratory tests that include assaying for contaminants, such as pesticides and molds.Nearpass says the healing properties of herbs are most effective when the manufacturers preserve the whole plant. She says ingesting the whole plant straight from the ground would be optimal, but she recognizes that’s not practical.However, spagyric medicine takes a plant apart then puts it together again. Kirlian photography, which measures the frequency of light and function of living things, has shown that these kind of herbs emit a higher frequency, Story said.Story works with both Chinese and Western herbs. She says both have equivalent benefits. Through evaluating the pulses, listening to the patient and tongue diagnosis, she determines whether a specific Chinese or Western herb would be best. The Chinese herbs she uses are called shen tonics, which help relax the spirit and mind.To find out what herbs might work best for you, consult a trained local health care professional.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at email@example.com.
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