1. Before you take an herb, read up on it. Don’t just follow the latest fads or take your friend or neighbor’s word for it. Do some research to make sure the herb’s right for you. (Check out The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs by Thieme Medical Publications, 2003, or The Herb Companion’s sister publication, Herbs for Health magazine.)
2. Don’t take an herb’s identity for granted. Look for products that identify ingredients by Latin names — and know what you’re looking for.
3. Don’t exceed the recommended dosage. Follow the product’s label directions or your practitioner’s recommendations closely.
4. Respect your individuality. Watch for any allergic reactions or adverse effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, headache or a rash. If you notice any such symptoms, discontinue the herb.
5. Be wary of herb-drug interactions. If you’re taking prescription drugs, check with your health-care provider before taking herbs.
6. If you’re older than 65, start your herb regimen with a low dose. As people grow older, they become more sensitive to drug effects, so a low dose might suffice. You always can increase your dose later.
Michael Castleman is a frequent contributor to The Herb Companion’s sister publication, Herbs for Health , and is the author of 10 consumer health books including The New Healing Herbs (Rodale, 2001). Available on our Bookshelf.
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