About this Episode
Medicinal herbs have been used effectively and safely for thousands of years, but in the modern age concerns about safely using herbs are still prevalent. Naturopath and herbalist Jo Boyd joins our host Sara Le Brun-Blashka, MS, in this episode to talk about herbal safety and how to utilize herbs confidently.
Planting the Seed of Doubt
Some people fear using herbs and are particularly concerned about herbal safety and possible herb-drug interactions. Jo highlights the importance of herbal practitioners being well versed in all aspects of herbal safety, providing realistic assessments of work, and continuously referencing the fact that herbs have been used safely and effectively for thousands of years. It’s also important to choose herbs wisely, selecting those that have been proven to be effective and safe – and paying close attention to reputable sourcing (04:44).
Misinformation about the safety of medicinal herbs is prevalent and often stems from a fear of the unknown when individuals are not familiar with herbal medicine. Jo finds that often this type of misinformation may seem contradictory, stem from unreliable sources, and be based on an inaccurate likelihood of risk (00:56).
Safe Herbs for Children
Sara and Jo also discuss safe herbs for children specifically, a more vulnerable population that may require extra care in the utilization of medicinal herbs (05:53). Jo’s first advice is to ensure any herbs taken are prescribed by a qualified healthcare practitioner who is able to provide the proper dosage. In addition to chamomile, herbs for children that Jo highlights include echinacea, eyebright, skullcap, and passionflower.
Safe Herbs During Pregnancy
Another vulnerable population is pregnant women (13:51). There is extra uncertainty about when and how to use medicinal herbs during pregnancy, especially when there are extra warnings on herbal labels. Jo encourages our podcast listeners to understand what the labels mean, including a “contraindication” versus a “caution.” That being said, Jo says she only uses herbs during pregnancy if absolutely necessary, and definitely no herbs containing volatile essential oils.
Potential interactions between herbs and drugs are often the greatest source of concern for individuals on the fence about utilizing medicinal herbs (18:29). Jo points out that more than ever, pharmaceutical drugs are being created and used for a wide array of prevention and treatment strategies. When discerning the true risk of a potential herb-drug interaction, Jo says to ensure you draw information from credible sources. She also differentiates between two types of herb-drug interactions:
- Pharmacodynamic interaction: herb interferes with the action of the drug; sometimes useful and clinically beneficial as drugs and herbs can work together synergistically; may assist in weaning off of medication
- Pharmacokinetic interaction: a more serious interaction in which the herb may change the absorption, metabolism, or excretion of the drug, which would lead to altered activity of the drug
Further regarding herb-drug interactions, Jo advises to be particularly mindful of the elderly, people with impaired kidney and/or liver function, and other vulnerable groups.
As a healthcare practitioner and herbalist, Jo strongly recommends surrounding yourself with others that utilize herbs to support your confidence. It’s important to remind and educate others that herbs have been used for thousands of years in safe and effective ways, dispelling the idea that utilizing herbs as medicine is a “deviation from the norm.” After all, medicinal herbs were the earliest form of healing!
“If the herbs in this world could speak, they’d be suing us for defamation.” – Kerry Bone (03:04)