In the know: Medicines vs. natural remedies

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, April 12, 2010

You can expect many of your patients to be using complementary remedies, including herbs, vitamins, spices, or other "natural" substances. Sometimes patients are seeing skilled and educated complementary providers who recommend these remedies. Some patients select their own remedies based on word of mouth from friends or relatives. Often people use them because lack of insurance or resources limits access to healthcare. Whatever the motivation, you need to know (and teach patients):

  • "Natural" isn't synonymous with safe. Everything that has a good effect has possible adverse effects.
  • Complementary remedies such as herbs and vitamins can interact with prescribed conventional medications and potentially worsen health.
  • Herbs and other complimentary remedies are regulated by the FDA as food products and are checked only for things such as contaminants and adulterants (insect parts, dirt, etc.) and not for levels of effective ingredients, for examples.
  • Errors associated with self-diagnosing have real dangers whether we take "real medicines" or "natural remedies."

For more tips, check out HCPro's book, Stressed Out About Pharmacology.

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