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Potential Dangers of Chinese Herbal Remedies

Most people wrongfully assume that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its use of herbal remedies can’t pose any dangers.  Since herbal remedies are natural many people believe they are completely safe. While they may be much safer and more natural compared to the synthetic medicines used in Western medicine, they can still cause harm in some instances.


Misuse is one reason Chinese herbal remedies can potentially cause harm. Misuse occurs when people don’t use herbs as intended or they take the advice of someone who is not properly trained in Chinese herbal medicine.  This can be very dangerous and can cause the health issue they’re trying to treat to get worse rather than better.


Potency variations can also cause problems.  Potency levels can vary greatly depending on where an herbal concoction is prepared. The preparation of teas, pills and tonics may have much higher levels of certain substances if not done properly.  This can cause a person to have a dangerous reaction.

While an increase in potency may merely result in minor irritations, a remedy that contains too much of a certain herb can cause very serious side effects. For example, kidney damage can occur when certain herbs are too strong.  Some types of herbal skin treatments can irritate open wounds.  Gas, bloating and indigestion are side effects that may occur when a remedy is not prepared correctly.

Current Safety Measures

Most TCM practitioners today are licensed.  They must go through rigorous training before they can practice or prescribe herbal remedies. Most states now regulate potency levels of herbal remedies as well as how they are prepared. You should make sure your herbal advisor is licensed. You must also be sure to inform any medical professional or herbalist who treats you of any current remedies or medications before you take something new.

When prescribed by qualified, licensed practitioners and used properly, traditional Chinese medicine is generally very safe for most people.

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