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Choosing and Using Alternative Remedies:

The alternative medicine industry is rapidly growing with many new products entering the market daily. It is impossible for us to list or evaluate each one, or even each category.  What follows are some practical tips and basic principles to practice before choosing alternative medicines for yourself and your family members.  These include: 

  • Do your homework: Get information from reputable sources, not just health food store clerks!  You didn't enter menopause in a day, don't prepare for it in a day.
  • Keep in mind your goal(s) of therapy: Are you trying to decrease your menopausal symptoms, prevent heart disease, or reduce your risk of osteoporosis?
  • Keep your doctor informed, especially if you are taking other medications or having a dental or surgical procedure- even if you are afraid that your doctor will disapprove.  Many herbal preparations have serious side effects on their own, or can have potentially dangerous interactions with anesthesia or other medications.  And many herbal preparations are actually combinations of various herbs.  Data show that fewer than 40% of herbal users inform their physicians about this.
  • If you take medicines that involve regular blood level monitoring (e.g. coumadin, warfarin, etc.), do not take any herbs without discussing it with your physicians.
  • Many serious adverse reactions to herbal products are actually allergic reactions.  If you are a taking any medicines known to increase the risk of life-threatening allergic reactions (e.g. beta blockers, ACE-inhibitors), do not take herbal medications without consulting your physician.
  • If you want to take phytoestrogens and you have had breast cancer, ask your cancer specialist if these products are safe for you.
  • If you are having surgery with general anesthesia, stop taking all herbal preparations 6 weeks before surgery.
  • Read the labels carefully.  Keep in mind why you're taking this product.
  • If some is good, more is not necessarily better.  Stick to recommended doses.
  • The term "natural" has no special medical significance.  Conventional wisdom suggests that if something comes from nature, it is better than something that comes from a lab- but don't forget that diseases come from nature too.  When "natural" is used on a dietary supplement product labeling, its purpose is for marketing only.  Chances are it also comes from a lab, but the product synthesized is the plant version of the compounds as opposed to the animal version.

Created: 10/17/2000  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

 Get information from reputable sources, not just health food store clerks! 

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