Do not underestimate the effects of medicinal herbs

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If naturopathy is underestimated: medicinal plants are by no means always harmless

Medicinal plants such as comfrey, ribwort or woodruff, wild garlic or nettle are enjoying increasing popularity, according to the agricultural information center Proplanta, but may also be associated with health risks. Not all natural herbal remedies are harmless. Many "herbs in different dosage forms can cause cramps or other side effects, especially in overdose and in small children," according to Proplanta.

Based on a study by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy, the Information Center for Agriculture reports that today around 70 percent of adults in Germany use natural remedies, with over-the-counter phytopharmaceuticals playing an important role. “According to the Federal Association of Drug Manufacturers, around 1.05 billion euros were spent on herbal medicinal products in 2011,” reports Proplanta. Two thirds of the total went to cough and cold remedies. Although the herbal supplements are often sold without a prescription, Proplanta says that a certain amount of caution is required here as well, because "they are by no means harmless."

Medicinal plants with comparatively few side effects Overall, medicinal herbs are considered to be comparatively low in side effects, but under certain circumstances these also involve a certain risk, according to Proplanta. The healing power of many herbal active ingredients is now clearly scientifically proven and numerous medicines have been using this effect for years. "Some have been chemically replicated by pharmaceutical companies for a long time, such as salicylic acid from the willow bark, which has been administered as acetylsalicylic acid for over 100 years for headaches," reports Proplanta. However, the overall effect of a plant is often different from that of a single ingredient.

No self-medication with medicinal herbs for serious illnesses According to Proplanta, the medicinal plants may have unpleasant side effects, which in the worst case can pose a health risk. As an example, the agricultural information center mentions "St. John's wort, which has proven itself as an antidepressant, but can result in strong sensitivity to light and mania." In addition, St. John's wort can greatly reduce the effects of other medications. Unwanted pregnancies despite taking the pill are a possible consequence here. In general, "a visit to a doctor is essential in the case of medium to severe illnesses," emphasized Dr. Heimfried Rüdinger, health expert at Proplanta. Numerous doctors have meanwhile specialized in natural healing methods and phytotherapy, so that the preferred use of medicinal plants can usually still be guaranteed here. Proplanta reports that self-medication with medicinal herbs, which is preferred by many patients, should be avoided if possible, especially in the case of more serious illnesses.

Medicinal plants have been tried and tested for centuries. Although the natural remedies can have side effects, especially if used incorrectly and dosed, they are generally "used preventively and are relatively well suited for treating minor ailments and strengthening the body and the body's defenses", reports the health expert of the agricultural information center. The “medicinal plants have proven themselves here for centuries.” According to Dr. Rüdiger should "but you should know what you are doing and make yourself known beforehand." (Fp)

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