Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Alternative Remedies - Are They Really Safe To Use?

It seems more and more people are choosing herbal medicines, homeopathics, and vitamins either as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, traditional treatments prescribed by their healthcare professionals.

Herbal medicines, homeopathic, and vitamins are part of a bigger health category known as complementary medicine that also includes popular non-chemical disciplines such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, and aromatherapy.

Alternative Remedy Safety

When it comes to alternative remedies and their safety there are a number of issues to be aware. Why don't we look at a few example.

Let's say you are one of the millions trying to keep your bones strong and healthy by consuming high calcium foods and a daily calcium supplement. Perhaps your motivation for trying to add more calcium to your diet is prevention, or maybe even something more troubling like beating back osteoporosis. Sounds harmless, right?

Not true. The risk here is that calcium in not water-soluble and must be stored somewhere in the body. When taken with magnesium it ends up in our bones where it should be. When large amounts of calcium are consumed without magnesium it ends up in our tissues and often leads to arthritis like pain.

Something else to watch out for when it comes to any alternative remedy is staying true to the dosage. The reason for this is that herbs can be toxic when taken in large amounts. Additionally, in most cases taking more will not help your results since natural remedies work in concert with your body to produce a desired result over time.

High dose natural remedies also put a great deal of pressure on the liver and kidneys which is another reason to pay close attention to doctor recommended dosage requirements.

Alternative Remedy Safety - Regulation

Regularly there are articles filled with skepticism about herbal remedies because they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration; which means they can be sold with no proof of safety, purity, or whether they work as claimed.

This sounds pretty scary but what I can tell you is that the FDA monitors herbal, homeopathic, and natural remedies closely and with one misstep the natural remedy in question will be pulled from the market and banned immediately. This happens occasionally, primarily in the diet space, but certainly isn't an everyday occurrence.

When comparing this with the side effect risks associated with most prescription medications on balance natural remedies comparatively speaking are a much less risky treatment option.

Additionally, it seems that even when a serious health concern does pop-up pharmaceutical medications are rarely taken off of the market. For example we now know that popular cholesterol lowering statins increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 70 percent and certain over the counter pain medications increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Some changes have been made but for the most part both are still on the market with no signs of sales slowing down.

The FDA also monitors the biological mechanism of natural remedies and if their mechanism is similar to a pharmaceutical compound the formulation must be changed or sold by prescription only.

This happened with a natural product known as Red Yeast Rice which has been used safely for centuries in the practice of Chinese herbal medicine. After entering the American market the FDA determined it worked similar to a certain statin medication and banned the product until the formulation was changed.

So the point I am trying to get across is that while there may be the occasional quality control issue with small obscure companies chances are if you purchase your natural remedies from a well-known brand there will be no unforeseen problems.

In conclusion, alternative remedies do have some risks and cautions, especially when considering we live in a society where so many people take multiple prescription drugs daily. That said, alternative remedies are not regulated by the FDA in the same way prescription medications for a reason, and that reason is they are generally considered to be safe when used as directed.

With the United States ranking woefully low in life expectancy (38th) and having the highest per person pharmaceutical use in the world it comes as no surprise that more people have decided to give alternative remedies a try in hopes of improve current quality of life and possible squeezing out an extra year or two when it is all said and done.