They may be natural, but herbs still contain chemicals that can cause adverse reactions in some people. Here’s how to use them safely:
Look out for side effects
If you have an unpleasant reaction to an herb — dizziness, upset stomach, or headache from ingested herbs or skin reactions from topically applied remedies — stop using it immediately and tell your doctor or pharmacist.
Be alert for allergic reactions
If you have allergies — and even if you don’t — some herbs can trigger allergic reactions, though it’s uncommon. Chamomile, for example, is a member of the ragweed family that’s linked to hay fever.
Though it rarely happens, it’s possible that an herb can cause anaphylactic shock-a life — threatening allergic reaction. If you have trouble breathing within 30 minutes of trying an herb, call 911 or your local emergency number. With any new herb you’re trying, internally or externally, it’s best to take small doses at first and work your way up over a few days to the recommended dose.
Beware of interactions
Like drugs, some herbs can interact with each other and with the foods you eat. Always be particularly careful when taking more than one drug or herb or a combination of a drug and an herb. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential bad mixes.
Talk to your doc
If you’re taking an herb for a condition for which a doctor is also treating you, make sure she knows what you’re taking. You can get too much of a good thing. For example, if your doctor has given you sleeping pills for insomnia, you may not want to double up with a cup of sleepy-time tea.