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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Herbal Interactions

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A few years ago I met a man who almost lost his life. He had been in a car accident, but the major threat to his life actually came in a bottle. He was taking several herbs that prevented doctors from stopping his bleeding, and others that interfere with anesthesia. Now, I’m not saying all herbs are bad or dangerous, but it’s important to really understand exactly what you’re putting into your body. That means carefully reviewing both the benefits and risks.

I’ve heard many people say, “Herbs are natural, how much harm can they do?” My response is always, “Well, poison ivy and ragweed are natural too because they come from plants, but we all know how harmful they can be.” Over the years I’ve met many people who have taken herbs without investigating each of the following questions: 1) does it work? 2) if so how? 3) how much is the right amount? and most importantly 4) is it safe? Does it cause any side effects or interact with any other herbs, drugs, supplements or medical conditions? If an herb “works” for one thing (let’s say boosting energy) but causes harm to another part of the body (such as kidney damage), the pros clearly don’t outweigh the cons.

So, where do you find this kind of info? Well, you may have noticed that the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine is listed under my Who We Read section. I think it’s a great resource. It provides consumer friendly info about a number of popular herbs. For example, did you know:
-Uncooked ginkgo seeds contain a toxin that can cause seizures and even death in large quantities
-The use of kava has been linked to liver damage, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure
-St. John’s Wort interferes with birth control pills

The site also includes tips about how to choose a complimentary and alternative medicine practitioner. To visit now, click here.

And for more info about interactions between herbs and surgery, follow this link.

photo courtesy of GeekPhilosopher.com
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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