When natural doesn’t always mean safe…

Meadowsweet-1“You should take this, it’s natural, so it’s safe!”

It’s something I often heard from patients and relatives during my years in the hospital or community pharmacy. The answer is: not necessarily!

It’s a common misconception that if a remedy is derived from a plant, comes from the nature then it must be safe. Actually, several commonly used drugs come from plants.

Let’s look at aspirin for example. Everyone knows aspirin. It’s one of the first medicines that came into common usage. It entered the Guinness World Records for being the most frequently sold painkiller in the 1950’s. Did you know, that it can be found in the meadowsweet flower (see photo)? This plant yields a chemical called salicin. The clever pharmacists slightly modified this component to make it less irritant, and here we go, aspirin was born!

Now we know, that it comes from this beautiful plant. Does it make aspirin completely safe? The answer is a definite NO. Did you know, that it actually interacts with 180 other natural products, so you have to be really cautious? I’m only talking about the natural products, haven’t even mentioned interactions with other medicines or certain medical conditions when you must not take it. However, if it’s used correctly, aspirin is a wonderful medicine and it remains one of the most researched drugs to this date as more and more health benefits are discovered.

When buying herbal remedies or other natural products, please ask your pharmacist for advice. We have access to all the relevant resources to check if that product is going to be a safe option for you, or just simply give you advice on how to take it correctly to make the most of their beneficial effects.

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