The National Health Service of the United Kingdom, a widely respected and publicly funded health care system, describes herbal medicines as those with active ingredients made from plant parts like leaves, roots or flowers. Because herbal medicines are made from plant parts, many people assume they’re safe to take without consulting a physician. However, the NHS urges people to treat herbal medicines with the same care and respect as they would more conventional medicines. Herbal medicines can affect the body in various ways. A frank discussion with a physician can shed light on the potential side effects of herbal medicines and whether or not they’re safe.
Why should seniors be concerned about herbal medicines?
The NHS notes that seniors taking other medications may experience problems if they begin taking herbal medicines as well. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes that more well-designed studies are necessary to fully evaluate interactions between herbal medicines and prescription drugs. However, the NCCIH notes that some evidence points to some harmful effects of mixing the two. For example, the NCCIH reports that prolonged exposure to concentrated garlic extracts may reduce the efficacy of some drugs. The potential for these types of interactions should be enough to compel seniors to think twice before taking herbal medicines without first consulting their physicians. In addition, the NHS has developed a list of various types of people for whom herbal medicines may not be suitable, and that list includes the elderly.