PRECAUTIONS (Culpepper) If you know anything about herbs, you'll know where I got my user name from. Nicholas Culpeper, one of the most famous English herbalists/physicians. I've been researching herbs for most of my life, have grown and sold them commercially, and have written several books about them (as yet unpublished). If you search for my posts here, you'll find many which give information about herbs. I'd just like to make a couple of points about herbs that many people may not be aware of. Of necessity, this is very brief indeed. For one thing, it's difficult to generalise with herbs, because they are so many of them - around 20,000 are known. First, most herbs have medicinal uses, even the most commonly-used culinary herbs. This means that they are medicines (drugs) when taken in medicinal (therapeutic) amounts. And like more conventional medications, individuals will react differently to them. A very high percentage of conventional medications are actually derived or obtained from herbs, or are synthesised copies of some components of herbs - Aspirin, for instance, comes from either Meadowsweet or White Willow bark. DO NOT assume that because it is 'natural' it is also 'safe'. Do NOT assume that because a little may be good for you, then a whole lot will be better!! Before using any herb medicinally, please check with a doctor. Some herbs can affect other conditions you have besides the one you want to treat; some are contraindicated for use in pregnancy or when breastfeeding, if you suffer from kidney problems, heart problems, blood pressure problems, diabetes or any number of other conditions. Most herbs are multi-purpose, so be careful about combining herbs with herbs. If you are taking any conventional medication, check out whether a particular herb will interact with it. This applies even to hormone medications, like the contraceptive pill (the origins of which came from Wild Yam, BTW), or cough syrups or sore-throat lozenges or headache pills. Ginseng, for instance, can interfere with the absorption of Vitamin C. Second, it's never a good idea to start self-diagnosing or self-treating, with herbs or any other form of medication. As with conventional medicines, the required dosage may vary from person to person. And, while you think your headache may be from tiredness or the need for glasses, it just might be a brain tumour you've got, or dangerously high blood pressure!! Third, it is never a good idea to give herbal medications to children without first consulting a doctor. A herbal tea is a herbal medication. (That applies to ordinary black or green tea, too!) As a broad rule of thumb, a cup of herbal tea is a daily dosage for an adult. But children need only a teaspoonful. And children often react very differently to herbs than do adults. You CAN overdose on herbs, and some have accumulative effects over time. Also never assume that because a herb is good for humans, it is also good for pets. Fourth, NEVER use herbal teas as beverages. They are medicines, and should be used only to treat a specific ailment, as advised by a professional medical expert. Even the mildest herbal tea may have side-effects in some people. For instance, a cup of peppermint tea every day can cause, after time, palpitations, digestive problems, jitteriness, excessive sweating and a range of other side-effects. A single cup of lemon balm tea may give you night-sweats, and if you have a thryoid disorder (diagnosed or undiagnosed), it might make you very ill indeed. Fifth, if you are likely to have surgery or dental surgery, consult your doctor, anaesthetist or dentist several weeks beforehand. They will usually advise you to stop taking all herbal medications (including some vitamin supplements etc) up to 4 weeks before surgery, because so many of them have the potential to interfere with anaesthesia, or to cause excessive bleeding during and after the procedure, or cause other major problems. Sixth, certain herbs should be avoided altogether in pregnancy, including moderate use for cooking. A great many herbs act on the muscles of the uterus, and this can mean abortion (miscarriage), or convulsions or other problems. Parsley and pennyroyal are notorious for this (pennyroyal is just another kind of mint). Parsley and many other herbs can also cause deformities in the developing foetus. Again, a matter to discuss with your doctor. In short, treat herbs with the caution and the great respect they deserve. If you don't know what you're doing, then don't do it! Just to get my point(s) across, take a look at the following: Warnings about Garlic: Avoid large doses of garlic if suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, or if suffering from restlessness, insomnia with accompanying exhaustion, thirst and dehydration. Therapeutic use should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Ingesting more than 10 raw cloves per day can be toxic. Pure, undiluted juice used externally can burn sensitive skin. (Remember that garlic can be absorbed through the skin.) Garlic capsules combined with diabetes medication can cause a dangerous decrease in blood sugars. Do not use garlic if taking any of the following: Aspirin. Anticoagulants. Diabetes medications. Hypoglycaemic drugs. Antiplatelet drugs. Warfarin. Some people who are sensitive to garlic may experience heartburn and flatulence. Warnings about Ginger: If suffering from gallstones, or if pregnant or nursing, consult a health care professional before taking large amounts of ginger. Daily consumption of ginger root may interfere with the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, pheytoin, warfarin, lincomycin, digitalis, nalidixic acid, sulfonamides, and phenothiozines or other psychoactive agents which are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Ginger may mask the toxicity caused by aminoglycoside antibiotics such as neomycin. It may inhibit urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as amphetamines or quinidine.