There is a time for doing it yourself when it comes to caring for simple cuts and treating a mild fever. But when it comes to taking herbal supplements (or botanical products), avoid DIY.
These supplements which are available in many forms, including in tea bags, capsules, tablets, liquids, and powders can have strong effects on the body.
Any herbal intake should be consulted and discussed with a health care practitioner for safety of use and to avoid interactions with drugs or other supplements.
The safety of a botanical depends on several factors, such as its chemical makeup, how it works in the body, how it is prepared, and the dose used.
Botanicals are not necessarily safer than the ingredients in conventional medications simply because they come from nature.
This general perception is particularly prevalent in countries where use of traditional herbal medicine is very popular.
However, active ingredients for botanical medicines sold by herbalists are not well-characterised or in some cases even known.
In fact, many natural substances can be toxic and cause unpleasant health effects or adverse reactions. Toxicity associated with herbal supplements may result from production problems such as the misidentification or mislabelling of the plant species used, contamination with pharmaceutical agents due to poor quality control standards, or contamination with pesticides, heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead), or microbes.
The use of botanicals for maintaining good health and preventing diseases is undisputed.
Researchers have studied the benefits and risks of some herbal health products and supplements using high quality clinical trials, but others need to be studied more.
As a consumer, it is your responsibility to research the benefits and risks before taking any botanicals. You should also discuss concerns with a knowledgeable medical practitioner to determine if you are at risk for any adverse reactions.
Only then would it could be possible to use botanicals in combination with contemporary medicine.
Mr Alalwan, Ph.D, is assistant professor, department of biology, College of Science, University of Bahrain