Are herbs safe?
Not all herbs are the same. I observe the six point continuum of herbal safety. When crafting my formulas. When combining herbs for general use, I use herbs in the first 3 categories. Occasionally, I will add an herb from the 4th category in small quantities and if I can balance it with more gentle herbs. So what are these catagories?
1. Nourishing herbs are herbs with no known side effects, contraindications, or drug/herb interactions. They can be safely used anytime and for prolonged periods if desired. These are the healthy foods and herbs with specific nutritive qualities and are often touted as "super foods" that you can make part of your daily diet. Some examples of nourishing herbs are clover, nettle, seaweed, and green tea. You will also find many of these herbs in commercial herbal teas.
2. Tonic Herbs are herbs that may induce gentle side effects which are often desired and appreciated. They can be safely taken for prolonged periods though not usually in great quantities. These are often used as seasonings or spices. They might make you burp, or make your nose run, or stimulate digestive juices but they are still largely considered foodstuff. Some examples of tonic herbs are chili pepper, dandelion root, garlic, and milk thistle.
3. Stimulating Herbs are herbs with a moderate potential for toxicity. These herbs can have stronger side effects which may or may not be desired. They are sometimes contraindicated in some situations or could interact with medication. While not considered dangerous, prolonged or excessive use could result in unpleasant experiences. Some examples of stimulating herbs are ginkgo, coffee, ginseng, and turmeric.
4. Specific Herbs (or "specifics") are herbs that should only be used with the help of an experienced professional herbalist. They are usually used in combination with other herbs to balance their effects. They are indicated in acute, specific, limited situations and may interact with some medications. They are contraindicated in some situations or in vulnerable populations. If not used correctly, use of these herbs could result in adverse affects or in some cases, even toxicity. Herbs in this category are generally used for several days or weeks at a time then discontinued. These herbs are not recommended for daily or ongoing use in a chronic situation. I work very carefully with herbs in this category and only in conservative amounts. While they can be valuable allies in a balanced formula, you should not try to take them alone or outside of the support of a clinical herbalist. Some examples of specifics are goldenseal, feverfew, St John's wort, and angelica.
5. Heroic Herbs (or "heroics") are herbs with a strong physiological effect, high potential for toxicity, a narrow margin between effective dose and toxic dose, and/or have significant potential for abuse. Some are illegal to even grow. If you need a heroic herb, you really should be working with a qualified physician who can prescribe the refined pharmaceuticals derived from these plants. Herbs in the heroic category include foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, poke root, and opium poppy. Marijuana is also in this category in my state of licensure (Ohio) where a medical prescription is required. None of these herbs will be included in any of my kit boxes or care plans.
6. Deadly Herbs (or "poisons") are highly toxic plants with little or no justifiable use in herbalism or medicine. Some examples of poison herbs are aconite, poison hemlock, henbane, and poison ivy. None of these herbs will be included in my kits or care plans.
Knowing what herb is good for what health issue is one thing. Understanding how that herb works and how it can interact with your personal biological chemistry is another thing alltogether.
Herb safety is a topic I discuss in detail with individual clients and you can expect detailed literature with each Alchemic Herbal Kit Box. Ultimately, you are the one who decides which, when, and whether to take any herbal preparation. I will insure you have the information you need to make those decisions and I recommend always including your primary care provider in that discussion as well.