They All Have Side Effects

Look at the folded paper, stapled to the professional white pharmacy bag, which instructs you on how to use the drug you just received. Or look at one of several websites which discusses various drugs or herbals that you might be taking. In either of these sources, did you notice, in addition to the “mechanism of action” and “how to use” sections, the “serious side effects” section? Every drug listed in the United States Pharmacopeia has side effects. And so do all the herbal medicines.

Many common medicines have serious side effects. Statins – those wonderful drugs which lower cholesterol – carry a risk of liver damage. NSAID’s – miracle medicines which relieve pain – can lead to a heart attack. Certain antidepressants – which lift people’s spirits and get them going – can lead to suicide or violent behavior. Hydroxytamoxifen – holding cancer at bay in those with a family history of breast cancer – can increase the risk of uterine cancer. Simple aspirin – the wonder drug of the 19th Century – can lead to hearing loss in adults and death in children.

Herbals used for various common ailments also have side effects. Country mallow – used as an anti-inflammatory and fever lowering agent – can cause heart arrhythmias and strokes. Goldenseal – used for inflammation, colds, constipation and as a general medicine – can cause abortions. Licorice – used commonly for healing ulcers and lowering potassium in patients on dialysis – can cause major loss of potassium, high blood pressure, and arrhythmias. St. John’s wort – known to be effective for depression – can cause sedation and confusion and make schizophrenia worse. All herbals beginning with the letter “g” (garlic, ginseng, ginkgo) – useful for various medical problems – are blood thinners and can cause bleeding.

Are these side effects happening because these medicines are inherently dangerous? Look at that paper from the pharmacy and notice the areas affected in the list of side effects – heart, liver, bowel, kidney, muscles, brain. These side effects happen because the body is extremely complex. The normal proteins, hormones and other naturally occurring chemicals of the body serve in multiple sites. Medicinal agents – drugs and herbals alike – also affect one or more of these sites – with resulting sides effects; that is, unintended consequences.

All medicines – both drugs and herbals – are intended to be taken in controlled amounts over a short time span – never for a long time over which the drug or herb can accumulate and cause the “side effects.” When treating long-term, chronic disease states, first look for non-medicinal treatments: exercise, weight control, balanced diet, adequate water, adequate sleep, healthy social and spiritual interactions, refraint from alcohol, tobacco, narcotic and stimulant use. Almost 85% of all common medical conditions will respond to these “natural” health promoters.

Some medicines (drug or herbal) are necessary, but be sure you have effectively and consistently used the non-medicinal therapies first.