Friday, February 27, 2009

Consumers Turn to Herbs over Prescription Medications

Kristen Kemp, right, gives her 1-year-old son Soren some black elderberry extract at their home in Montclair, N.J. Kemp uses home remedies and herbal medicine for her kids’ sore throats and colds instead of prescription medications to cut costs.

According to this story from the Associated Press, more and more consumers are turning to herbal remedies over prescription medications, in part to save money in this down economy.

“The doctors are so much higher (in cost), the insurance isn’t paying as much,” said the 61-year-old self-employed bookkeeper and notary. Her husband, a retired dispatcher, has high blood pressure and seizures. Recent changes in their health insurance coverage resulted in $1,300 in monthly premiums, double what they used to be.

The story also points out an important safety factor: most people who use herbs are self-medicating. While herbs themselves are quite safe, people may end up hurting themselves if they use them without guidance. Most of the time this comes from taking something long-term that is only meant to be taken for a short period of time.

For instance, many people know Yin Chiao as the product to take when they feel the first symptoms of a cold (银翘解毒丸 Yin Qiao Jie Du Wan). This herbal remedy works so well that some of my friends started to take it all the time, thinking that it would work as a sort of herbal prevention. A daily dose of Yin Chiao is actually indicated for people with herpes, to prevent outbreaks. Taking Yin Chiao when you're not sick at all can lead to a chronic stuffy nose.

The best way to take Chinese herbs safely? Consult a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac) - nearly all of us have extensive herbal training. Hate needles? Ask them for an herbal consultation, sans acupuncture. Most will be happy to oblige.

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