There was this lady that came every morning to the pharmacy where I once worked to buy tetracycline and chloramphenicol tablets. She called it red and yellow capsule (that is for tetracycline) and white capsule (for chloramphenicol). She practically bought these every day and sometimes up to 3 sachets each.
One day I confronted her as to what she uses these drugs for and she said it was for her mother. I queried further and she casually told me that her mother prepares (upon request) some herbal concoctions for people and that she mixes the chloramphenicol and tetracycline with the herbal drugs. I was flabbergasted to say the least.
I was shocked to the marrow firstly because of how she casually made the statement and mostly because I didn’t expect such level of ignorance coming from a university degree holder. The said lady is already a mother of a little girl and is well educated; at least she has a university degree. Her indifference and nonchalance still surprises me.
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The next thing that clicked on my mind is the realization that bulk of what Prof. Ayinde thought us in Pharmacognosy about adulteration of herbal medicines is really true and easily obtainable in our society. Not just that, the fact that it goes barely unchecked and unnoticed in our society is still another cause of worry.
But should all these deter one from using herbal medications? Perhaps not, the right question will then be when should one take herbal medications? This question therefore is what this write-up is meant to provide further insights on…
Dangers Of Adulterating Herbal Medications
To appreciate the importance of the question when should one take herbal medications, perhaps one needs to understand the dangers of adulteration of herbal medicines in the first place because appreciating the consequences of an action can help one make better choices.
In a Research on PubMed carried out by Paul Posadzki on the contamination and adulteration of herbal medicinal products, it was concluded that there are legit reasons for concerns with regards the quality of herbal medicines. It also reported that most herbal medicines were adulterated or contaminated with dust, pollens, insects, rodents, parasites, microbes, fungi, mould, toxins, pesticides, toxic heavy metals and/or prescription drugs.
As will be expected, adulteration with these products can lead to severe adverse effects such as agranulocytosis, meningitis, multi-organ failure, perinatal stroke, arsenic, lead or mercury poisoning, malignancies or carcinomas, hepatic encephalopathy, hepatorenal syndrome, nephrotoxicity, rhabdomyolysis, metabolic acidosis, renal or liver failure, cerebral edema, coma, cerebral hemorrhage and death.
However, stepping away from the medical jargons and endless list of ailments that can be caused by adulteration of herbal medicines, it is important to highlight the aspect of multi organ failure which has been rather consistent on the headlines recently. This is because several reports have linked acute renal failure to occur in about 30-35% of all cases with the use of herbal medications.
There have been cases of young people developing acute renal failure just few days after using herbal medications for ‘body cleansing’ and general well-being. The cases are worrisome and should really make one want to ask about the safety of alternative medicines, hence when should one take herbal medications?….
When Should One Take Herbal Medications?
Many people erroneously believe that herbal medications are natural and therefore safe. This is a dangerous simplification, as some herbal medicines are associated with toxicity while others interact with synthetic drugs to generate harmful metabolites.
Another major issue with the use of herbal medicines is the under regulation. Basically, regulatory bodies approve these herbal medicines into the class of food additives. This does not give their marketers the express permission to tout it for the multi-use like they do, but what happens afterwards? Are they not touted? Don’t you even see large sign posts of herbal practitioners promising to cure illnesses like cancer or diabetes or miraculously enlarge your penis? Well, have a look here…
So, amidst all these illustrations, when should one take herbal medicines? Let’s Itemize
- Take herbal medicines when you trust the source. It is important to procure your herbal medicines from people that you trust; people that will never adulterate the drugs with orthodox drugs like tetracycline (red and yellow capsule) and chloramphenicol (white capsule). The knowledge of combination of herbal medicines is majorly learnt or inherited in some cases. Do not patronize road side vendors; your kidneys will thank you for it.
- Take herbal medicines when you’ve probably exhausted all your options with the use of orthodox medicines. You must know every drug (orthodox or herbal) is a potential poison. The dose, route of administration and frequency of use can all make the difference.
- Take herbal medicines alone. Do not combine your herbal medicines with an orthodox medicine like ibuprofen, amoxicillin or nifedipine. When in doubt always ask the nearest pharmacist. Most importantly do not assume, it is always better to be extra careful than to risk having complications in the future.
- Take Herbal medicines with a clearly defined dosing formula. You can’t be gulping down concoctions or tablets without knowing when to stop; it betrays every essence of medical practice. Ask for the dosing, make sure you stick to it and save your kidneys the additional work of metabolism
- Finally, take herbal medicines when they are approved by the regulatory bodies. Irrespective whatever promises or prospects the medicines bring to the table, always ensure that you take herbal medicines that are approved by the regulatory bodies. Granted is the fact that there are lax legislations on some of these products but anyone approved by regulatory bodies (e.g NAFDAC) means that the product at least passed a toxicity test. Therefore, you’re guaranteed that at the recommended dose, the medicine will not be harmful to you.
Tick these five points next time before you take herbal medicines, you will be happy you did.
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