To Go or Not to Go Herbal, that
is the Question…

Many people nowadays are turning to “organics” and
“naturals” otherwise known as herbals. The rising
popularity of herbal supplements has created a new fad if not a new
health lifestyle. But before you join the bandwagon, here are some
things you need to know about this mean, “green”
dietary supplementing machine.

What is the difference between a drug and a dietary supplement?

According to the definition set by food and drug administrations in
different countries, drugs are chemicals that can prevent, prolong the
life, treat other effects of a health condition, improve the quality of
life, and/or cure ailments and diseases, or alter the function of any
part or chemicals inside the body. These drugs have approved
therapeutic claims. For example, paracetamol is a drug given to bring
down the body temperature in fever. Ascorbic acid is indicated for the
treatment of scurvy. Iron supplements are given to treat mild cases of

Herbal supplements are not classified as drugs but as dietary
supplements. The main difference is that they do not have approved
therapeutic claims unlike in the case of drugs. Moreover, dietary
supplements could either contain vitamins, minerals, herbals, or amino
acids, all aimed to add to or supplement the diet of an individual.
They are not intended to be taken alone as a substitute to any food or

Most of the manufactured medicines we now have once came from animals
and plants. Through the years, chemists isolated the life-saving or
life-curing components and separated them from the harmful ones. This
lead to the further drug research and drug development that lead to the
production of a different variety of drugs for many ailments and
conditions from synthetic sources. But still we have semi-synthetic
drugs, as well as drug that more or less approximate more natural
composition. Since herbal supplements are made from a mixture of crude
herbs reduced into powder or gel form, and later on packaged as tablets
and capsules, there is a possibility that life-threatening or at least
body chemistry-altering components are still present, thus the
expression of concern from the medical community.

Is there a growing concern with the use of herbal supplements?

Yes. With the rising popularity of using and consuming anything herbal
or organic is the proliferation of fake herbal supplements that
threaten to endanger lives. If that’s the case, then why are
herbal supplements given drug administration approvals? One way of
ensuring the safety of the people is to have all candidate drugs, food,
drinks, and dietary supplements registered with the proper authority.
Otherwise, they would pose more risk with these things being sold in
the black market for a hefty sum. We could ensure the quality and
safety of herbal supplements if they get proper classification with the
food and drug administration. Moreover, people may be able to file the
proper complaints in the event a worsening of health condition is
proven to be linked to the use of a particular herbal supplement.

Is using herbal supplements worth the risk?

Yes. It cannot be discounted that many who have tried herbal
supplements experienced an improvement in their
health—whether this is due to the herbals themselves or due
to a placebo effect, as long as they do not worsen the condition of an
individual, then using them is worth the risk. But of course, certain
things must be considered before taking those herbal supplements:


Your doctor knows best.

First of all, clear your condition with your doctor. Ask him/her if
taking a particular herbal supplement is safe given your health
condition. People with heart, liver, or kidney trouble or malfunction,
are usually not advised to take these, or at the minimum is to take
these herbals in minimum amounts. All substances pass through the liver
and kidney to be processed and filtered respectively. Kava, which is
used to relieve people from stress, has been pulled out from the
Canadian, Singaporean, and German markets because it contains
substances that cause liver damage. Certain herbals such as Ephedra
used for losing weight, contains chemicals with heart-inducing effects
that can increase heart rate, which in turn can exhaust the heart and
cause heart attacks in several documented cases by the American Medical

Follow the directions for use.

Never take more herbal supplements than what is directed by the doctor
or as instructed on the bottle. Each individual reacts differently to
the components of herbal supplements. While it is perfectly safe for
one individual to take in a supplement of primrose oil capsules,
another person may be allergic to it. So, do not even think about
downing one bottle of

It has no approved curative effect.

No matter how the product pamphlet or the label of the bottle sounds
about how it has been found to be helpful in certain health conditions,
these herbal supplements are not therapeutic. So do not substitute
these for the medications prescribed by your doctor for the treatment
of certain diseases, or for the maintenance of blood pressure, lowering
of blood sugar and cholesterol, and fight off infections.

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Diane Higgins

"Be your authentic self it's the path to success."-Psychologist Diane Higgins has authored numerous papers and has lectured extensively helping people find their authentic self, learn to be being purposeful and develop positive thinking. Diane is the author and/or editor of our Self Help Section.
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