Herbal remedies for allergies, anxiety, migraine, and more – Medical News Today

Many herbs contain compounds that can help treat diseases or help to ease symptoms. In fact, some modern medicines have their origins in herbal remedies. A common example of this is aspirin, which is a form of salicylic acid – a compound that occurs naturally in willow bark.
Herbal remedies can vary in their quality, effectiveness, and safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them as closely as medications, and some have little scientific evidence to support their use.
It is always best to discuss health conditions and herbal supplements with a qualified medical professional wherever possible.
In this article, we look at what herbal remedies are, how they compare with medications, and some popular herbal remedies for conditions such as allergies, coughs, migraine, and anxiety.
Herbal remedies are a form of traditional medicine. They consist of herbs or compounds that come from herbs. They can also contain fungi or algae.
Herbal products come in a variety of formats, including:
Historically, herbs were one of the main ways people treated disease. Today, they are still part of many types of complementary medicine, such as herbalism, naturopathy, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine.
Learn more about alternative, complementary, and integrative medicine.
There are some key differences between herbal remedies and prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. It is important to be aware of these differences before using them.
In the United States, the FDA regulates many herbal remedies as dietary supplements. This means that the FDA does not test them for their efficacy or safety before companies put them on the market.
Companies are responsible for ensuring the labels of their products do not contain inaccurate or misleading information. They can also choose to ask a third party to test their products for quality, but this is not compulsory.
By contrast, medical products have to meet strict standards before a company can sell them in the U.S.
Many people believe natural products are safer or gentler than prescription drugs. But as with any drug, herbs can be toxic at the wrong doses. They can also cause side effects, interactions, and allergic reactions.
Herbal products are only reviewed for safety and efficacy by the FDA if consumers or medical professionals report problems with them. In some cases, the FDA has banned herbal products after discovering that they contained illegal substances, unlisted ingredients, or poisons.
For example, some Ayurveda products contain mercury or lead, while some “natural” products for erectile dysfunction contain dangerously high amounts of unlisted, prescription-only drugs.
It is just as important to check herbs are safe before use as it is medications.
The evidence showing that herbal remedies work can vary a lot. While some do have strong evidence showing they can benefit certain conditions, others have none. Additionally, the studies that look at herbal remedies are not always high quality, and may involve:
This makes it difficult to know if a herbal remedy will work reliably across a large group of people, what the long-term effects are, or whether it is more effective than a placebo. There may also be a lack of information about the impact on pregnant people and children.
Some of the most popular herbal remedies for allergies include:
Be aware that people with pollen or plant allergies may also be allergic to herbs such as butterbur.
Migraine is a neurological condition that typically causes painful headaches, as well as other symptoms such as nausea and light sensitivity. Some herbal remedies people use for migraine include:
For other types of headache, peppermint oil may help. Peppermint contains menthol, which can have a cooling effect on the skin. People can apply it by diluting in a safe quantity of carrier oil and massaging onto the skin. Menthol is not safe for children, so do not use this oil around them.
A number of OTC products for coughs contain compounds that come from plants. For example, cough lozenges often contain menthol to soothe a sore throat.
Examples of herbal remedies that may help to reduce coughs include:
There are many ancient cures for stress and anxiety. Some examples of herbal products that may help reduce stress and anxiety include:
It is worth noting that some herbal remedies for anxiety, including lemon balm and chamomile, appear to work by affecting GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that impacts mood and sleep. As with antianxiety medications that work by changing GABA levels, these substances may cause side effects.
Learn more about effective treatments for anxiety.
If people wish to try a herbal remedy, there are steps they can take to ensure they use them safely.
Always consult a qualified medical professional before using herbal remedies. This is especially important for people who are:
If a herbal remedy is safe to use, follow the instructions on the label or the instructions of a doctor. If symptoms develop or get worse, or a person takes too much, stop using the product and seek medical attention.
When looking for herbal remedies, choose brands that use third-party testing to ensure their facilities and products are high quality and contain no contaminants. In the U.S., people can look for:
These qualities indicate a product has no hidden ingredients or harmful levels of a substance. But they do not guarantee a product will be safe or effective, so it is still important to speak with a healthcare professional about using them.
As with medications, it is important not to give herbal products to others. What helps one person may harm another, so it is essential that others seek their own medical advice when it comes to treating conditions.
Never give herbal remedies to children unless instructed to do so by a doctor. Many herbal remedies may not be tested on children, and even those that seem harmless may impact child development.
To report safety concerns with dietary supplements, use the FDA’s safety reporting portal.
Herbal remedies are a type of traditional medicine that use plant-based ingredients to treat illnesses. Many are very popular, as they can be more affordable than prescription drugs. But it is important to remember that herbal remedies are not always effective or safe.
Always discuss taking herbs with a doctor before use, and look for products that are high quality and have scientific evidence to support their use.
Last medically reviewed on July 8, 2021
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