Herbs and herbal teas - a Warning
Most herbal tea drinkers are surprised by the dangers many common teas have, when used in high doses or when taken with certain other medications or normal household products.
- Firstly, any plant can be helpful, medicinal or harmful, depending on the dose.
- Secondly, herbal teas can interact with common prescription drugs, usually in dozens or hundreds of different reactions. For example, blood thinners, aspirin and other anti-coagulants can cause kidney and liver damage when combined with some herbal teas.
- Thirdly, many tea products are falsely labelled, on their packaging or in their advertising and descriptions. Frequently herbal tea contains unlisted or incorrect ingredients. Tea and herbal blends are rarely tested, and often have unsupported claims.
The compounds in herbal tea are not inert, and interact with your body at neurological and chemical levels. Herbs which deserve particular care include St. John's Wort, Kava, Comfrey, Chaparral and Pennyroyal. Even herbal teas that you assume to be gentle and mild can have powerful impacts in larger doses.
Any herbal tea should be made from the fresh single herb. Avoid herbal teas made with commercial tea bags.
You should have regular abstention periods from most medicinal herbs. This is essential so that your body's responses to the phytochemicals in the herbs does not become jaded. If you continue taking many herbs without a break, they will have less and less effect and may become harmful.
Unfortunately most herbal suppliers won't tell you this - it would result in an immediate decrease in their sales. It goes back to the old rule - when someone is making money selling you a product or service, you need to carefully seek out your own best interests.
Calamine tea in excess can cause bleeding, severe drowsiness if mixed with alcohol, and can affect a foetus during pregnancy.
Ginseng reduces the effectiveness of anti-clotting medications (blood thinners) and can cause bleeding in post-menopausal women. It should not be taken for long periods.
Hibiscus can lower blood pressure by up to 10 points. However Hibiscus tea has estrogenic effects, promoting phytoestrogens.
Maca is one of the few herbal supplement that I ever take. It is an endocrine stimulator and body rejuvenator. When using it, I take a quarter teaspoon with my morning and evening meal. I take it for 4 weeks, and then every 5th week abstain from using it. Others I know use a three weeks on one week off routine.
Maca contraindications. Do not take Maca if you suffer any glandular cancers, except under the supervision of a herbal specialist. Men should not take Maca if they are suffering from an enlarged prostate, or prostate or testicular cancer. Women suffering from any hormone-related cancers should avoid Maca.
Avoid ginseng, licorice root, dong quai, black cohosh and fertility drugs while taking Maca.
Buy organic Maca (Australia only)
Spearmint can negatively affect kidney function, especially when mixed with some pharmaceutical medications.
St John's Wort helps with depression and mood disorders. However it herb can cause nausea, dry mouth, headaches and dizziness. By lowering the activity of some antioxidants, it also makes you more likely to get sunburned.
Valerian tea can act like a medical anaesthetic. Avoid using valerian tea with many medical prescriptions, don't use it for long periods, stop taking valerian tea for two weeks before any surgical treatment, and women should avoid it during pregnancy.
At Grow Youthful I have always advised to avoid medications because they always have nasty side effects. This warning can be extended to all supplements, because few supplements have any benefits and most are useless or harmful. This is now extended to herbal supplements and teas - take care.