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Natural Remedy Safety: 4 Tips to Keep You from Being a Victim of Nature

Natural Remedy Safety: 4 Tips to Keep You from Being a Victim of Nature

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I love natural remedies. I love brewing a cup of ginger tea to ease a tummy ache. I love reaching for that inexpensive bottle of homeopathic Pulsatilla when a little one wakes teething in the night. And when I burn myself on the stove, I love the soothing power of lavender oil that makes it all better.

Ask me how I know. Natural remedies work.

And they are an invaluable tool none of us should be without.

But natural remedies are often misunderstood and abused.

Many who are excited to replace their conventional drugs with natural alternatives find themselves disappointed when nature fails to deliver a healing response in the way they expected.

And others eagerly start using remedies like herbs and essential oils… only to discover they’ve caused themselves other health issues. Wait, that’s not supposed to happen!

Natural remedies are valuable, but they must be respected and used correctly. Don’t let yourself become a victim of nature!

Instead, consider these tips to help you utilize the power of natural remedies safely and effectively!

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Safety Tip #1: Handle natural remedies with care.

ESSENTIAL OILS

Lately it seems that everyone has jumped on the essential oil bandwagon. And for good reason.

Essential oils are nature’s strongest antibiotics, antivirals and antiseptics. They work exceptionally well treating health issues where other natural remedies (and prescription drugs) seem to fall short, such as with drug-resistant bacterias like MRSA.  (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)

But their power comes with a price.

The failure of many to use them moderately and to respect their potency is what largely inspired this post.

Essential oils as a group can cause phototoxicity (sensitivity to the sun), liver failure, coma, seizures, inflammation of the lungs and respiratory distress, localized anesthesia, kidney failure, hypoglycemia, and tumor development (Source 1 [PDF], Source 2, Source 3). 

I say this not to be a scare-monger, but to alert you to the strength these oils possess. They are the real deal.

Precautions need to be taken when using essential oils, even in minimal amounts. Obviously, special considerations should be made for children and pregnant and/or nursing mothers (speaking of, here’s a list of oils to avoid during pregnancy).

But all essential oil users should employ them in moderation and with respect for their potency.

First, essential oils should not be ingested unless for a specific medical condition being addressed under the care of a trained medical professional. Several seemingly safe oils can be harmful and even fatal when ingested in varying amounts, such as with peppermint oil, clove oil, wintergreen oil and others.

Second, essential oils should be diluted before using them topically, especially when used on a child. (You can read more about why dilution is important, here.)

Third, most essential oils are powerful antibiotics and can destroy good gut flora when used often. If you use essential oils to combat illness, be sure to take a wholesome probiotic at the same time to build your gut health.

(You can learn more about essential oils here, including why they are called “essential”.)

HERBS

Herbs, another invaluable tool in the natural medicine cabinet, should also be ingested with caution. Before you take a sip of that herbal infusion or tincture, consider the ingredients.

Certain herbs, like Kava Kava, can make you nauseous, impair physical coordination and even lead to unconsciousness.

And other herbs like Goldenseal, Licorice Root, Ginseng, Gentian, Feverfew, Chaparral, Cayenne, Black Walnut, White Willow and even Aloe (just to name a few!) should only be used occasionally to guard against intestinal irritation, liver damage, and/or inflammation.

If in doubt, look it up or consult your natural health provider! Don’t take your chances.151997368

Safety Tip #2. Natural remedies should not replace conventional medicine in times of emergency.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the truth is many naturally-minded friends of mine find themselves despairing when the natural approach fails to afford them the healing power their bodies need.

Consider my friend who recently experienced a horrible allergic reaction to poison ivy. As her face swelled up and her itching intensified, she felt defeated that her natural remedies weren’t doing the trick to relieve her symptoms. When at last she caved in and filled a prescription for Prednisone, she experienced substantial relief and her eyes were opened… literally! 

Truth is, every one of us will likely experience medical emergencies in our lifetime, from allergic reactions to strokes to heart attacks.

When a medical emergency arises, it’s no longer safe to rely on natural remedies as your only source of healing. Conventional medicine has it’s place, and this is it.

Don’t be discouraged or give up on natural remedies altogether, though. Instead, follow conventional approaches and then pursue natural, complimentary, measures when your situation becomes more stable.

However…

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Safety Tip #3: Natural remedies can interfere with prescription and OTC medication.

Be mindful that there are times where natural and conventional medicines do not make good bedfellows.

Herbs, essential oils and even vitamin supplements should be used with caution and under the guidance of a health professional when you’re concurrently taking prescription medication.

Several natural remedies can:

  • Interfere with the body’s absorption and utilization of prescription drugs;
  • Cause the effects of the drug to be exaggerated; and/or
  • Trigger unwanted side effects of the drug.

Be particularly cautious with natural remedies (chiefly essential oils, herbs, and vitamin supplements) when taking prescription drugs for depression, hypo-/hyper- thyroidism, and insomnia, as well as blood-thinners (like Coumadin/Warfarin), anti-cancer drugs and heart medications. 

Wintergreen, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Burgamot, Grapefruit Seed, Evening Primrose, and Rosemary oils are just a few of the essential oils that should be avoided if you’re taking prescription drugs until cleared by your physician.

Some additional drug interactions to keep in mind are listed here.

Herbs to avoid until cleared by your physician include Hawthorn, Goldenseal, Black Cohosh, Feverfew, Foxglove, Kava Kava, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Chamomile, Echinacea, Ginkgo Biloba, Valerian and even medicinal amounts of garlic and ginger – just to name a few!

Vitamins to be wary of (in excess) while taking prescription drugs include Vitamins A, B, E and K.

Everything that enters the body – whether natural or synthetic, food or medicine, essential oil or drug – has the potential to react adversely with other things.
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Safety Tip #4: Stick with well-known, safe, remedies if you’re new to natural medicine.

Hands down the best remedies to use if you’re just starting to utilize natural medicine are homeopathic remedies.

While there’s lots to learn about how to choose the most effective homeopathic remedy, the fact is there is zero chance that you can harm yourself or another when attempting to use them.

At best, they will relieve your symptoms quickly and completely.

At worst, you’ll experience no relief… and have to try another.

Furthermore, they are safe to use alongside prescription drugs and they pose no potential harms to children or pregnant/nursing mothers.

For more information check out our page on homeopathy.

At the end of the day…

There’s a reason natural remedies aren’t heavily regulated. For the most part, they truly are a safe and wonderful approach to healing. And one needn’t obtain a degree in natural medicine before feeling comfortable using a remedy.

Many oils, herbs and other natural remedies pose no safety risks and yet provide substantial healing capabilities! I love how they empower every person with the ability to take charge of their health and facilitate healing.

But I also cringe when I see natural remedies misused and abused. Remedies which can heal, also can harm.

I urge you to embrace the healing power of natural remedies…

But moreover, be purposeful and informed in your application of these gifts of nature.

 

Further Reading

Essential Oil Safety” by Robert Tisserand  

Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar

Essential Oil Safety – Blog Articles by Author Robert Tisserand

Herbal Medicine in the United States: Review of Efficacy, Safety, and Regulation, Published online Apr 16, 2008

Using Herbal Medicines Safely, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency – United Kingdom

Are Essential Oils Safe? Published online by the University of Minnesota

 

This post has been shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday.

Herbs and Foods May Lead to Complications If You Take Them with Drugs, Holistic-Online.com

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