Herbs are big business in the U.S. Many of us want to use simpler methods to get around some of the difficulties life throws at us. There is a misconception that herbs are always safe, always good and don’t have side effects or interactions. That is dangerously inaccurate.
Here are a few examples:
Gingko Biloba is an herb that is associated with improved cognitive function. There are two reasons this herb should not be given to a patient with Alzheimer’s and probably all forms of dementia. Studies show that it does not help in these situations.
The second reason is that it can cause harm. It is known to cause kidney damage. Our elders, who are the most likely dementia patients, may already have kidney issues. This is a time to skip the herbs.
All herbs that affect mood and depression are a bad idea for those with bipolar disorder. They can bring out some of the worst symptoms, even with one dose. They also interact with any medications taken for it. When it comes to interactions, major depression is the same. Herbs to avoid include chamomile, jasmine, lavender, passionflower, valerian, St. John’s Wort and kava kava.
The biggest problem here is drug interactions. Some of them are surprising. As an example, St. John’s Wort interferes with medications for heart disease. Some aren’t surprising if you know anything about herbs. An example here would be the use of willow bark. If you are already on an aspirin regimen, taking willow bark is a bad idea…they have the same active principle.
Herbs may be used cautiously with this illness, but it should be overseen by a doctor who knows something about herbs. The herbs that cause problems are those that will raise blood pressure or damage the kidneys further. Licorice root, including the candy, is a bad idea. It will cause blood pressure to rise. As mentioned above, gingko Biloba can cause further damage.
It is always best to consult your medical providers before taking any herbal product. This will help you avoid the mistakes mentioned above and any other problems that could occur. If your medical provider doesn’t know a lot about herbal remedies, ask for a referral to a qualified herbal practitioner. Between the two, you will have the best outcome.