"Herbal remedies" have been around for a very long time. No doubt your great great grandmother had a few that she swore by. The Chinese have been using herbs for health issues for thousands of years. Whether for people or animals, you'll find herbs in pill, liquid and powder form in tens of thousands of stores across the U.S. This would lead one to believe that herbs are a safe and effective treatment for the various ills and pains that afflict both us and our pets. But is that really the case?
First of all, what exactly are herbs? The answer is that all herbs are plant-derived drugs, without exception. We all know that, when it comes to prescription drugs, there are dangers involved in taking them. Most have possible side-effects, many of which are quite nasty, even potentially life-threatening. Some drugs can cause addiction or depedency. So, what about those plant-derived drugs called "herbs"?
Since plants can't fight off insects or animals that want to eat them, they contain chemicals that cause changes in the way the predator's body works. These chemicals do many different things. Some act like the animal's own hormones (like steroids) and many actually attack the body's immune system. Depending on the specific plant, the amount eaten, and the size and type of animal or person, ingestion of herbs and their chemicals can cause death, abortions, seizures, or an altered activity of the nervous system. Herbs can also be used as antibiotics and anti-fungals, because they can also kill bacteria and fungus.
While there are some herbs that are – in the correct dose, with the correct processing, and the correct usage – very beneficial (especially in hormonal balances), as with any other kind of drug, daily, prolonged use of herbs will eventually result in one or more of the following:
For this reason, under no circumstances do herbs belong in daily, prolonged supplementation! Just because things are "natural" doesn't mean that they are natural to the body or that they are good, safe or any better than the synthetic versions. This is contrary to a lot of companies' marketing and what a number of people will attempt to tell you.
The negative effects may take days, weeks, months and, sometimes, even years. A lot depends on the individual body, the quantity taken, a person's diet, other supplements being used, quality of the ingredients ingested, and the specific herb used. The one thing that is certain is that every single drug in existence – whether "natural" or synthetic – will eventually cause one or more of the above four problems if they are overused, misused, or abused – and that includes daily use for more than a few days or weeks.
The use of some herbs can even prove to be life-threatening. For example, a person taking a regular dose of ginko biloba cannot under go certain major surgeries because they could bleed to death. There are some herbal ingredients, as well as heavy metals (often found in some minerals), that do not have an immediate effect. They gradually build up in the liver and kidneys until those organs stop working.
Other herbs – some of which have been marketed as being beneficial – can have severely damaging effects on the body that, though not life-threatening, can cause significant problems and reduce the quality of life when misused, overused or abused. For instance, yucca, promoted as being great for relieving pain and inflammation, contains steroid saponins, chemicals that are related to the steroids, and can cause joint degeneration with daily, prolonged use.
The following is the lowdown on a few herbs and other "natural" ingredients.
Yucca: Yucca contains steroid saponins. These chemicals are related to the steroids. In the animal's body they decrease pain and inflammation. They also decrease the immune response, and steroids have been shown to slow the production of glycosaminoglycans (GAG's), which are a major component of joint tissues. The main use of Yucca in animal feeds has been to promote feed efficiency and growth and to lower the amount of ammonia in the manure (so that it won't smell as bad). What is the life expectancy of the average feed animal? Do you think the owners of those animals really care about the joints?
Boswellia, White Willow's Bark, and Snake Root: These are all herbs containing chemicals that act as NSAID's. These drugs decrease pain and inflammation and are known to cause severe gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as ulcers. These drugs should not be used in people or animals with GI problems. Remember that gastric ulcers digestive problems are already common because of our fast food diets, junk food, alcohol, sodas, and irregular eating habits. Gastric ulcers are also very common in horses.
Devil's Claw: This herb contains several chemicals that are reported to decrease pain. They do not decrease inflammation and are similar in structure to steroids. This herb should not be used with any female (human or animal), as it has been reported that it can cause abortions by stimulating uterine contractions.
Bromelain: This is an enzyme found in pineapples. It has been shown to reduce the amount of swelling present in some experimental animals. However, Bromelain can enter the body intact because it eats away the outer lining of the GI tract. In cancer patients, it has been shown to stimulate the body's own immune system to kill the body's own cells. Since it is a protein, it can cause allergic reactions. People who handle bromelain have become allergic to it.
Glutamic Acid (Glutamate): While this is not an herb, it should be mentioned because of its role as an excitatory amino acid (EAA). When this amino acid is added to a brain, it causes seizures. Higher than normal concentrations are present in the brain of seizure patients. Research is being done to see whether blocking its activity will help control seizures. It is also being considered as an antidepressant drug. This amino acid is also naturally released by joint nerves to signal pain. The more glutamate that is released, the more pain that is felt in a joint.
Furthermore, many "herbs" are inconsistently grown, irresponsibly harvested, or too quickly processed. A manufacturer can reduce production costs of ingredients (whether vitamin, mineral, nutrient, or herbal), use exactly the same name and "claim" for purity, yet produce something that is very different in potency and bioavailability. Nutrition and health products are a tricky industry, and, although it appears that nearly any company can "jump in", not all companies have truly effective products. And remember this. Without at least two years of safety studies involving the ingredients specifically used in a company's product – done by some college or university somewhere in the world that included biopsies of the liver, kidneys, and heart of a test animal (a monogastric mammal, such as a rat) – that company obviously doesn't know what damage their product can do with daily prolonged use. It is vital that safe and ethical studies were done, or your body could be the next "guinea pig".
There are simply too many factors to make assumptions about herbs, too many variables to believe that daily prolonged use is safe. So, when using products containing herbs:
Please don't misunderstand. There are some good and beneficial herbs, but they are ALL PLANT-DERIVED DRUGS and should not be used each and every day for a prolonged period of time.
MD's Choice does NOT use herbs in their formulas for the reasons stated above. In addition, there are no "painkillers" used in the MD's Choice products to give anyone a false sense of security. We strongly believe that painkillers and most herbal remedies should be used with a professional's advise and for a limited period of time – while KNOWING that you are doing it!
Many products on the market include ingredients just to have things that are "popular" on the label. None of our products contain ingredients that are there just because it's popular with consumers or become the latest craze. We stand by the ingredients that have been proven over time and through intensive research to be safe and effective.
Remember one important thing. Claims of quick cures and fast results should, as the old saying goes, be taken with a grain of salt. Your body (or that of your pet) is not a car that you can drop off at the mechanic and expect back in perfect working order in a few hours – or even a few days. The truth is that real healing takes time. It should also be accomplished by putting things into it that truly are "natural" for the body and provide safe nutrition for the various systems in the incredibly complex "machines" that we and our animals are. Doing so will give results that are generally healthier, more life-changing, and usually a great deal more positive.
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