Herbal Suppliments That Nurses Should Know
Many herbs have a long history of use and of claimed health benefits and supplement sales are soaring in the US and abroad. However herbs are not controlled substances and many can interact with drugs and can cause health problems. It more important than ever for nurses to know the basics about popular herbs in order to protect patients from misinformation and potentially harmful effects of herbal supplements.
The most important facts to know about herbs:
1. Herbs are classified by the FDA as a food and not a drug. This is important because:
Herbs are not regulated for quality and potency as drugs are.
Herbal formulas can be sold without being studied to see if they are helpful or harmful.
Herb labels may claim any health benefit, as long as it is not claiming to treat a health condition and there is some research (somewhere) that supports the claim. For example, if a formula has a trace of ginko biloba in it, it is allowed to make the claim that it may improve memory function, even though the formula itself was never tested.
2. “Natural” does not mean safe. For example, the herbs kava and comfrey have been linked to serious liver damage.
3. Women who are pregnant or nursing should be especially cautious about using herbal supplements, either alone or in mixtures., since these products can act like drugs. This caution also applies to treating children with herbal supplements.
4. Some herbs are known to interact with medications. Even if your provider does not know about a particular supplement, they can access the latest medical guidance on its uses, risks, and interactions. It is best to use supplements under the guidance of a medical professional who has been properly trained in herbal medicine.
Popular supplements every nurse should know:
1. Ginko Biloba
5. Black Cohash
9. Saw Palmetto
10. BANNED: Ephedra (aka Ma-Huang)