In this article Dr. Nina Byrnes replies to a question (real or rhetorical–the submission is unsigned) about a hypothetical blood pressure situation and whether the patient can still take their herbal remedies with their medication. We agree with Dr. Byrnes that your doctor needs to know what natural remedies you’re taking before they write you a prescription for pharmaceutical drug.
However, what we don’t agree with is her stance on some of the herbal remedies she talked about. Her sweeping statements need qualifiers.
For example, Dr. Byrnes stated, “St John’s Wort, which is commonly recommended for mood disorders, was shown to be, at best, a very weak antidepressant.” This is true. St John’s Wort is used as an effective, mild anti-depressant by many people.
It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have strong medication-like properties, which makes it a safe, long term remedy for depression, not short term. Not one that acts in a couple of hours like Citalopram or Lexapro. Also, some people need a weak antidepressant; depression may have different levels of severity.
The reason you should let your doctor know about the natural remedies you’re taking is because some herbs like St John’s Wort can interact with certain medications. It is one of the few that does have interactions.
Dr. Byrnes also stated, “Black Cohosh, recommended for menopausal symptoms, was shown to be quite dangerous to the liver in some people and a warning has been attached to its use.” This is not a proven fact, medically or scientifically. There are studies going on as you read this. As soon as the report is available, we’ll update this post.
However, Black Cohosh has been used for many generations without any harm to the women who used it. There may also be the situation that the patient is taking other medications that have liver-damaging properties. The diet and lifestyle of the person may not be taken into account.
Are they drinkers or smokers or have some other genetic predisposition? Then, there is the undisputed fact that foods and drinks today are loaded with chemicals. These chemicals may be reacting with our bodies in inexplicable ways and possibly interact with medications – and herbs or remedies like black cohosh. Finally, the person with alleged liver damage from black cohosh may have already had the liver damage before they started taking the herb.
Broad, sweeping statements of this kind are the reason why there is so much misinformation about natural remedies, herbal remedies, and home remedies on the Internet.
Every person has a different health risk-health index due to biochemical individuality. Some might have predominance of certain hormones than others, some may have more reaction to insulin than others, and some may have more or less serotonin.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of chemicals that work in and with the body every day. There is a great deal more unknown than known about how exactly the body works.
Medicine is not entirely evidence-based as Nina Byrnes states; some of it is tradition. Science is not an absolute system of knowledge, but one that moves from theory to theory, attempting to establish the best explanation of how nature works. And scientific theories and facts change as new knowledge is obtained.
Example of some chemicals in the body:
These are just a few of the chemicals your body needs to function every day. It points to the complexity of the chemistry of life.
Those of us in the herbal field are trying to educate people to the benefits of herbal medication, which may, can, and will help many of your ailments. Sweeping statements about the dangers of herbal remedies just propagates more misunderstanding about how they work.
Qualified, knowledgeable professionals who know something about herbs and natural remedies usually do not make allegations about their danger, but instead give common sense advice based on experience, training, and actual scientific studies.
What herbal remedies do you use with modern pharmaceutical? Have you had success or an adverse event that people should know about? Leave us a comment below to let us know…
Also, visit our Herb Shop for more information on herbs that help support your health and ailments holistically.
The Herbal Explorers
Laurence Layne and Jack Smithson