Many people think herbs are harmless, but in fact, if used without due care, they can cause problems in the body. Which ones can help with women’s problems and which ones should you be careful with?
Herbs, which have long been used in folk medicine, are now enjoying a renaissance: we take them, eat them, drink them, smear them, vaporise them. The question is whether it does more harm than good to turn to these natural – and therefore, many would argue, completely harmless – remedies instead of drugs that have been tested in clinical trials. Intima.hu asked Dr. Dezső Csupor, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Szeged, about the most important information on this subject.
According to Dezső Csupor, the popularity of medicinal plants and other natural substances is not a unique phenomenon: it is observed in all diseases or groups of diseases for which official medicine cannot offer a clear and fully satisfactory solution. “This is – and can be – justified within appropriate boundaries, since the line is not between natural and artificial (synthetic) substances when considering which one to use in the treatment or prevention of a particular disease. Rather, it is a question of whether the agent used, whether natural or synthetic, is effective and safe. This is a matter for scientific research,” he says.
Is cranberry or balsamroot effective?
According to Dezső Csupor, treating urinary tract infections with natural remedies is a good example of how herbs can be effective and safe, but they can also be harmful. For example, cranberries, or more accurately known as American blueberries, can be taken on a long-term basis and can be used to prevent recurrent episodes of UTIs. However, Dezső Csupor also stressed that diabetics should not ignore the high sugar content of cranberries, and their high acidity can cause problems for those who are sensitive to it.
There is scientific evidence for the efficacy of bilberry leaf in the treatment of acute urinary tract infections, but it is worth noting that it can be dangerous if consumed in large quantities, for too long a period or in a course of more than five times a year. Dezső Csupor also mentioned the essential oil of tea tree, which can indeed expel pathogens from the vagina in vaginal infections, but can cause mucosal irritation when used in high doses.
As far as amaranth is concerned, its hormonal action may be applicable to gynaecological problems associated with high prolactin levels. However, it is not recommended as a general fertility enhancer, as there are many different causes of fertility problems, which should be discussed with a gynaecologist-endocrinologist.
What to avoid
There is one herb that should be avoided: white mistletoe. “There is growing evidence that it contains toxic proteins, and one only has to think that anyone considering taking it to help get pregnant is exposing themselves to this toxic effect at the critical time of conception,” says Dezső Csupor.
They can even cause poisoning
So people who are considering taking a herbal product should be aware of the form (tea, ointment, essential oil, etc.), duration and frequency of use of the active substance, so that it has the expected effect without any risks. Dezső Csupor says that there can be big differences between seemingly similar products from different manufacturers, so always seek the advice of a professional, such as a pharmacist, before making a choice. “What many people don’t think about when using herbs is toxicity. Herbs used for longer than optimal periods, more frequently or in higher doses can even cause poisoning. This is why it is dangerous to consume herbs in excess, under the misconception that they are natural substances and therefore certainly do no harm,” he underlined.