Cocktails of conventional medicines and herbs putting lives at risk

Herbs have powerful effects
A curious confusion exists when people talk about supplements like herbs and vitamins. I’ve read that, like all Complementary and Alternative Medicines, they have no evidence to support any possible health benefits; and I’ve read that they can be so powerful that they can interfere with your Doctors conventional medicines and cause serious harm. I have even read both lines of thought from the same Professor on different days! Well, if it’s Tuesday.
Now, following an article by American Pharmacist and author, Dr Catherine Ulbricht, on Herbal Medicines, the Daily Mail, that well known Medical Journal, writes that ’Research shows that unwanted side effects and health problems can be triggered by combining natural supplements with widely used drugs’. Even though Ulbricht was talking about natural herbs (from gingko to St John’s Wart) and never mentioned vitamins or minerals, the Mail curiously followed this sentence with the statement that ’An estimated ten million Britons regularly take herbal remedies, vitamins and minerals’.
One wonders therefore, if that ten million is less or more than take drugs, and if it is the herbs or the drugs that are the real problem.
Notwithstanding the recent 2010 report from the American Poison Control Centres which reported not one death from taking herbs or vitamins, but rather more than a few from taking single or combination prescription drugs, Dr Ulbricht continues and correctly points out that ’Natural does not equal safe’. And so, at CANCERactive, we have decided to avoid Deadly Nightshade at all costs.
Ulbricht clearly comes down on the side of common sense. Herbs are powerful; they do have an effect; there is evidence. Go back to school all ye Naysayers.
Here are some things you need to know about herbs from the research:
    Garlic, ginkgo and ginger all lower blood pressure
    St John’s Wart is a natural anti-depressant, and can boost the immune system
    Bloodroot, green tea and Hawthorn may raise your blood pressure
    Chromium, cinnamon and whey protein can decrease blood sugar levels
    Valerian can aid sleep
Clearly, if you are having surgery or you have a need to do the opposite to any of these effects and so take drugs, taking the wrong herb can be counter-productive and even cause harm. So herbs are to be avoided in those cases.
But it is nice to know that someone has concluded these herbs really can do a job like reduce blood glucose levels or blood pressure. Perhaps it is therefore time to ask, if they are so effective, who needs the expensive drugs? Perhaps Doctors should be prescribing herbs?  
And now an anecdote: Interestingly the report mentions the negative effects of grapefruit. Recently a cancer patient rang Chris Woollams because she was taking her breast cancer drugs and was so ill. Her Oncologist had told her not to take any vitamin supplements and so she had stopped but now wondered if this was why she was so ill. Chris looked up her drug on an American web site. Every morning the woman loved her grapefruit for breakfast. The oncologist had rushed to tell her not to take supplements because they might conflict with the drug but didn’t mention that, according to the manufacturers, the ONLY thing that actually interacted negatively with the chemo drug was . Grapefruit juice.

April - June Cancer Watch 2012
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