5 Reasons to be Cautious When Considering Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies

Taking herbal medicines has become a popular way to relieve a variety of medical symptoms, including pain. If you choose to use an herbal remedy, be sure to talk to your doctor first. Herbal therapies can interact with other medications you may be taking and cause side effects you might not expect.

A Growing Industry

Millions of Americans seek help for medical symptoms from non-conventional therapies, making it a billion-dollar-a-year business. People may feel more comfortable with the idea of a “natural” remedy rather than going to the doctor. These medicines also are readily available and don’t require a prescription.

The use of herbs to treat medical conditions dates back 2800 B.C. in China. In fact, many commonly used “modern” drugs have an herbal origin. Examples include aspirin, digoxin (used for heart conditions) and morphine (used to treat pain).

Capsicum and Pain Relief

Of the many herbal medications that claim to relieve pain, capsicum, derived from chili pepper, has been established in the medical community as an effective treatment for certain types of pain. However, in making the decision to use capsicum, or any herbal treatment, discussion with your doctor is crucial.

Why You Need to Be Cautious about Herbal Medicines

  • The formulations available are not regulated or studied in the same way as prescription medications. Although there have been studies done to evaluate the claimed benefits of some herbs, most remain unproven.
  • Possible side effects can be mild or severe, ranging from allergies, effects on the liver and heart, and thinning of the blood.
  • Many current formulations have more than one ingredient, which can increase the chance of side effects or interactions.
  • Combining herbal therapy with prescription medications increases the potential for interactions and side effect.
  • The dose of herbs required for the claimed effect remains largely unknown.

As you can see, it's important to inform your healthcare provider if you are using herbal therapies. Many resources are available to review the possible side effects or interactions of herbal medications. Take advantage of these resources because warning labels are not required on “food supplements”—the classification for herbal therapies.

author name

Madhavi R. Reddy, MD

Madhavi R. Reddy, MD, is a pain management specialist with LG Health Physicians Pain Management and LG Health Physicians Specialty Medicine. Dr. Reddy is a graduate of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. She completed her internship at Albert Einstein Medical Center and residency and fellowship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She has expertise in the use of various injection treatments for alleviating pain.

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