Are you fond of natural herbal remedies? Well, just because they are natural does not mean they are all guaranteed safe. Because modern medicine has emphasized the high tech advances to the detriment of old fashioned people skills, there has been a certain amount of consumer backlash. Many feel that they don’t trust any modern medicines, and seek herbal remedies for any ailment.
Well that may be going from the frying pan into the fire.
In a recent issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, Drs. Talalaj and Czechowicz noted that some natural herbal remedies can be poisonous, especially to pregnant women and to children. In particular, plants containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids tend to accumulate their poisons in the body and can cause severe liver damage.
In some countries, these compounds can be found in herbal teas, which are usually thought to be completely innocuous. In a case in Switzerland, a child whose mother drank an herbal tea containing coltsfoot every day during her pregnancy died eleven days after hospital treatment for liver damage. In the US, two children, a two month old boy and a six month old girl were poisoned after being treated by their parents with a plant extract that contained the poisonous pyrrolizidine compounds. The two month old died, and the six month old survived, only to suffer serious liver disease and cirrhosis six months later.
It should be emphasized that the problems occur rarely, and only with specific herbs, so the national brands of herbal teas should not be suspect at all, in fact I plan to continue enjoying them as I have in the past. Herbs to avoid, according to the researchers, are:
- hound’s tongue
- goldenvragwort, and
- species in the families of senecio, heliotropium, crotalaria, and echium
Right. I’m sure we are all familiar with that lot, and can identify them at a glance at ten paces.
Here’s an action tip:
Just as all medicines are not harmful, not all herbal preparations are harmless. Unless you are buying reputable brands of herbal teas, or have expert identification of the contents of loose mixed herbs, the safest thing to do is to avoid taking them.