Herbal ingredients can also pose certain health risks

By Lennox Farrell Thursday April 24 2014 in Opinion
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Apparently, it occurs when she eats any meal that has vegetables, e.g., broccoli and lettuce, or uses any supplement that has herbal products. And she knows from experience that an instant rash, faintness, and blood pressure dropping drastically, etc., could result in her being rushed again to emergency. From experience, she has discovered an unusual solution to restoring her dropping blood pressure and possibly saving her life.


This is an example from one reader – I got her permission here – who recently shared with me, the risks to her of using herbals. Of any sort! Again, these include not only herbs in dietary supplements, but also the ‘familiar and harmless’ vegetables you eat.


Her experience, nonetheless, underlines the necessity of your being aware of both the benefits and risks linked to any nutritional supplements you use. There is no shortage of useful information on these. In fact, if there is any problem with culling material on supplements – or the vitamins, minerals and supplement industry (the VMS) – it is that there is a glut of it.


Libraries indicate that most of the requests received from seniors are for information on supplements. For the sake of clarity, I should say that in our family, nutritional supplements are used daily. And to good effect.


So, in addition to the vast growth in products and profits in the VMS industry, there are also vast benefits to be had from using nutritional supplements, or – as officially categorized – dietary supplements.


However, understand with regards to your health, that your choice, seasoned with prudence, is paramount. Or put another way, exercising caution before using any product, is education…but exercising caution after, is experience! Usually bad experience.


In short, education, a priori is less costly than experience a posteriori!


So, what about the benefits and risks of using herbals?


Our parents and others knew about, and daily used such staples as ginseng, clove, spices, cinnamon, and garlic in cooking. Green tea, orange tea, mint-buds etc., were elemental to good hospitality. Some of these herbs were also used as medications against colds and other disorders.


In fact, some herbs like garlic were also used as aids against the dangers of spiritual forces like witchcraft. As children and adults, you could wear, with religious certainty, pegs of garlic strung around your neck as protection against mal yeux, or ‘bad eye’.


When I first arrived in Canada, in my shirt pocket was a bulb of garlic. Had my mother calculated for the evil eye of Metro’s Finest, among these forces? Within three months of my arrival, I was unceremoniously dragged, neck first from a subway car because I ‘looked like someone…’


Other plants like the throat-scratching Christmas bush were used for problems with menstruation; cinnamon, clove & hibiscus for teeth and gums; rancid coconut-oil for your skin; aloes for cuts & sunburn; senna pods & castor oil to uncork ‘yuh arse’; assi fettitia for tape worms – some longer than 10 feet; your finger-nails squeezed to check the health of your blood; urine colour and smell for kidneys; shadow benni for high blood pressure; and, of course, Spanish fly for male underperformance, etc.


If we, as children were to survive, any good parent, grandparent and neighbour in our colonized societies had to be our own bush doctors and back-door pharmacists, who from long experience dispensed advice and mysterious mixtures – exchanged for eggs, and provisions etc., when they figured that you were sickly, or looked like you were going to be sickly. In short, as sure as morning brought sunshine, you would be regularly ‘treated’ for something or other.


The point is that herbals, used directly as food and indirectly as medicine, have had a long practice and tested history in our peasant and rural communities. Today, more urbanized, this practice will more than continue. Today, our reliance on and the merchandising of herbals have become transnational as products and as profits. More than 60 per cent of seniors in North America use these daily.


In this new dispensation, one in which as a consumer you are losing control of the health of what is used, two sets of challenges face you.


One is that the regulations which should control the production and retailing of herbals vary widely. In some countries, Good Management Practices (GMP) is industry-based and accepted on an honour system. In other jurisdictions, GMP is determined by legislation rigorously applied.


The second challenge is the need to educate yourself and others about the benefits and the risks inherent in the uses of herbals. Including those long familiar to us.


My reader, referred to earlier, has learned this from personal and endangered experience. Unusual in her case, she suffers these risks whenever she uses any vegetable or herbals. She has discovered, too, what to do in such crises to save her life if she is unable to get to emergency. She does not use alcohol otherwise, but to raise her blood pressure from low unsafe levels, she gargles with a mouthful of Malta Heineken.

TO BE CONTINUED: Vitamins: benefits and risks. www.antioxidantniche.com

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