As people become more interested in natural alternatives to medications, they are turning to Chinese herbal medicine as possible treatments. While Chinese herbal medicine does offer some benefits, it can also have negative side effects if you are not familiar with the herbs you are taking. To prevent these side effects, obtain the herbs only from a licensed herbalist, and speak to your doctor before taking them.
One of the most dangerous side effects of Chinese herbal medicine (or any herbal medicine) is the possibility of it interacting with prescription or over-the-counter medications. For example, the March 2007 issue of "Medical News Today" states that women will often use Dong Quai to treat menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. Dong Quai also has a blood pressure lowering affect, and if she takes it while on blood pressure medication, the results can be fatal. Many use aspirin as a pain reliever or for heart health benefits. However, as the National Institutes of Health reports, aspirin also has the effect of thinning the blood. If it is taken at the same time as another herb, ginkgo biloba, which many take to enhance memory, it increases the chances of internal and external bleeding. Many herbs are promoted for their positive health benefits and are helpful for many conditions. Unfortunately, their side effects are not as widely publicized, so many self-treat themselves with herbs without realizing the possible damage they can be doing, especially if the herbs interact with current medications. If you are currently on medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription, never begin taking any Chinese herbal medicines without discussing it with your doctor or pharmacist first.
Toxicity Side Effects
Along with the possible interactions with medications, as mentioned above, the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains that many Chinese herbal medicines can be toxic to the human body. When tested by the California Department of Health, 1/3 of the herbal remedies were laced with traces of prescription drugs or toxic metals, including arsenic and lead. These toxic contaminants can cause severe reactions, and even kidney failure, in some people.
Possible Allergic Reactions
Another side effect of Chinese herbal medicine is one that is possible with any medication: allergic reaction. The ACS explains that if you have any type of allergy to plant products, you may be more vulnerable to having an allergic reaction to an herbal product. If you use an herbal product, whether it is a tea or a tincture, and develop a rash, pain or difficulty breathing, discontinue its use and consult your physician immediately. Inform him of the herbal product you were using.
A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."