Herbal remedies are a popular healthcare trend. Even doctors are turning to herbal relief over prescription drugs for patients. In healthcare, it is important to understand how to care for patients who use herbal remedies.
First and foremost, herbal remedies need to be thought of as medications. They need to be listed on the patients medical record and disclosed to all care providers. As care providers, we need to be aware of side-effects, adverse effects and drug interactions with herbal remedies. Some can be as potent as prescription drugs and interactions could be fatal.
The first issue is that people tend to think because herbs are a natural substance, it won't hurt them. Healthcare providers need to be prepared to educate patients that herbs are the same as prescription drugs. If they have a positive effect on the body, they can also have negative effects. This is especially true if the herb has a known drug interaction with a prescription drug. Here are some examples:
St. Johns Wort - A commonly used herbal anti-depressant. This herb is an actual monoamine reuptake inhibitor. If it is used with an actual prescription anti-depressant of this type, the patient may experience seratonin syndrome. This can cause; high fever, coma and even death.
Echinacea - This substance used to boost the immune system seems harmless enough. It pretty much is and is said to be able to power the body up against strong viruses if taken in the first 72 hours. The only problem is people with auto-immune diseases should never use echinacea. This is one case where herbal remedies such as this one are not good for the body. People with auto-immune disease tend to have overactive immune systems and this herb could send them into a flare.
Bitter Orange - Bitter orange became popular when ephedra was banned. This supplement is a powerful stimulant and should not be used by people with heart conditions or hypertension. It should also not be used by children. Teach patients to watch for this ingredient in dietary supplements.
Noni Juice - Many people think this is a very healthy tonic because it comes from a fruit. It is purported to help cancer, heart disease, diabetes and joint issues. While there is no harm in using this juice, there is one side-effect that really needs to be monitored. This juice is extremely high in potassium. People who have high potassium levels, are on a low potassium diet or kidney dialysis need to avoid the use of this fruit.
Licorice Root - This one could be really tricky. We all love to eat licorice candy and seems innocent enough. This herb is popular for hepatitis, ulcers, bronchitis and sore throats. The only problem is it should never be used in people who suffer from high blood pressure. It should never be taken with diuretics because it can cause the potassium levels to fall way too low.
These are just a few herbal remedies to look out for in healthcare. There are many. Have a good drug book on hand to look up interactions and adverse effects. Patient education is important and teaching them to disclose any and all herbal remedies and over-the-counter supplements will help with safety. Here is a handy reference from The National Institutes of Health.