For thousands of years, people have been using natural substances to heal a variety of health woes, and maintain their overall wellness. In recent years, the interest in this facet of alternative medicine is growing for a number of reasons, from bad experiences with dangerous and ineffective pharmaceuticals, to a growing body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of natural supplements. If you are interested in going this route for your own health, here are some key points to keep in mind.
Natural and Safe are Not Interchangeable
When speaking in general terms, natural supplements tend to be safer than pharmaceuticals, and have fewer side effects. But, it is crucial to remember that just because something is natural, does not automatically mean it is safe. Natural supplements, like drugs, work by producing changes in the body; they contain active substances that could potentially interact with other herbs and pharmaceuticals. For example, the natural depression medication St. John’s wort has been found to interfere with the normal metabolism of a host of drugs, meaning your body can get too much of it, and produce negative side effects, or not enough of the drug, decreasing its effectiveness in managing your condition.
If you have certain health conditions, certain supplements may not be appropriate because they may effect some sort of change in the body that can affect the condition. Some herbs have been found to cause liver damage in people who suffered from diseases affecting this organ, for example. Taking certain herbs close to a surgical procedure could cause complications with anesthesia, or increase the risk of bleeding.
It is important you educate yourself on these matters before you start taking a particular supplement.
Give It Time
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which often start working quite quickly after you begin taking them, natural supplements usually don’t. In many cases, they are working to address root causes of a particular health problem, and not just manage the symptoms. So, it can take awhile before their full effects are seen. If you want to give natural supplements a real go, it is important you be patient, and use them as instructed consistently. In many cases, it can take up to two months before you can accurately gauge whether a supplement is working for you.
In some cases, it may take even longer. For example, the herb chasteberry, which is used to address a variety of female disorders, from irregular menstruation to infertility, usually takes about six months to normalize hormone function.
Buy Quality Supplements
Because supplements are not regulated as heavily as drugs, the quality can vary greatly among different brands. Look for supplements with the GMP designation-this stands for good manufacturing practices— and facilities with this designation produce supplements with the same strict standards that the FDA imposes on drug manufacturers. A NSF certification is also good—this is a well-known third party assurance quality organization. A certificate of analysis (COA) for each ingredient is also something to look for—this means the ingredient was tested by an independent lab and found to be free of contaminants.
Get Quality Information
When researching supplements, it is important you get quality information about them. Sites like the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) provide accurate, up-to-date information on supplements and available research. When reading websites and blogs, always consider the source. The site, CanadianPharmacyMeds.com, which covers a variety of topics on natural treatments, is run by a medical doctor who provides research-based information, for example, which suggests it can be trusted. Be wary of bold claims about treatments, particularly if the site is selling the supplement.