Combining spiritual and healing techniques with conventional medicines and treatments can be a very powerful combination. “We still have a lot of work to do to fully understand how Latinos use complementary and alternative medicine,” says Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the UCLA School of Medicine Rapé.
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“ Most of these herbs have been used for generations but their use is not without risks. Combining these popular remedies with conventional medicine can offer benefits for some patients,” adds the expert.
If you are considering using herbal medicine, here are tips on how to minimize your risks.
1-Remember that even if a product is “natural”, it does not mean it is safe. There are plants (such as nightshade and some mushrooms) that are very poisonous. Some herbs and supplements may harm you if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, awaiting surgery, or taking prescription medications for a serious or chronic illness.
2-Do not mix prescribed medications and herbs by yourself. Herbal medicines can decrease the effectiveness of some prescription medicines, as well as increase the effect of others. This may lead you to take medicines that are more or less powerful than you really need. For example, garlic may increase the blood thinning of anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications, and increase the effects of certain diabetes medications. Garlic can also decrease the effect of birth control pills. Therefore, talk to the doctor who prescribed these medications before mixing them with herbal products.
3-Look for a certified practitioner. It is important that you seek an expert herbalist since not all parts of a plant produce the same effects. For example, tea made from saw palmetto probably has no medicinal effect, since the active compound in this plant does not dissolve in water. In the same way, different parts of an herb can produce different effects. Dandelion leaf can be used as a diuretic but the root has a laxative effect. Remedies made from sassafras root can contain safrole, a highly cancerous ingredient, and even those that say “safrole-free” can contain it and be dangerous.
4-Be skeptical of private label supplements. Doctors and health practitioners who try to sell you their own brand products can be problematic. When these products are sold as a business by the same person who prescribes them, it creates a conflict of interest for the doctor and puts pressure on patients to buy them. For these reasons, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) advise that if doctors decide to distribute health products without a prescription, they should do so free of charge. or at cost. This removes the temptation for personal gain that could interfere with the doctor’s objectivity and clinical judgment.
5-Consider consulting a doctor specialized in integrative medicine. “Integrative medicine is a holistic or comprehensive treatment method, based on clinical evidence, in which the cultural traditions of the patients are taken into account and used as part of their treatment,” says Dr. Mosquera. This discipline has gained traction over the years and is already practiced in some of the leading medical colleges in the country.