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herbal remedies Safe and Effective Use of Herbal Remedies

All-doom-saying aside, herbs hold lots of promise for human health. It's just that, in most cases, people don't have enough data to know how to use them safely and effectively. But you can minimize risks by keeping a few basic tips in mind before you use any herbal product.

Most of these tips boil down to respecting the power of herbs - for both good and bad - combined with good old common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism. And if you experience any side effects at all, stop taking the remedy immediately. Call a physician if you develop a headache, rash, severe nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, or any other serious reaction.

Don't dose yourself with herbs unless you know what you're doing (or, better yet, are under the supervision of a professional who does). Don't expect the clerk in the health food store or supermarket to know what's right for your particular body - or whether this new product will interact with some treatment you're already using.

Do everything you can to find out what species of herb - and what part of the plant - you're using. Also confirm that you're using the species and part known to work. If the saw palmetto you're taking is made of roots instead of ripe berries, it won't do you the least bit of good.

Reliable books, trusted health professionals, responsible merchants, and scientific papers are good sources of information. Labels and advertisements are usually not. Of course, you'll have to use the label to find out the contents of specific products - and if this information isn't included, leave the product on the shelf.

More is definitely not better when you use herbal remedies. The safest course is to start using the lowest dose and frequency recommended and increase that amount only if you don't improve (an even safer course, though often not possible, is to try changing your diet, lifestyle, or attitude to find out whether you can avoid taking any kind of drug - herbal or otherwise). Remember that many herbs work more slowly than conventional drugs - so just because you don't see immediate results doesn't mean that you should increase the dosage right away.

Whatever you do, don't go over the maximum recommended dose to get more or better effects. If you're not satisfied with the results, see a health professional about other approaches to your problem.

If you don't use traditional medicines the way they were traditionally used, you can't expect to get the same effects - or the same safety record. Often this approach means working with an herbalist or other healer trained to use and understand herbs.

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