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Dr. Douglas L. Packer, MD, FHRS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

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Jill and Steve Douglas, East Troy, WI 

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Faye Spencer, Boise, ID, April 2017

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Dr. Hugh G. Calkins, MD  Johns Hopkins,
Baltimore, MD

Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...

"If I had [your book] 10 years ago, it would have saved me 8 years of hell.”

Roy Salmon, Patient, A-Fib Free,
Adelaide, Australia

"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su,
Cavanaugh Heart Center, 
Phoenix, AZ

"...masterful. You managed to combine an encyclopedic compilation of information with the simplicity of presentation that enhances the delivery of the information to the reader. This is not an easy thing to do, but you have been very, very successful at it."

Ira David Levin, heart patient, 
Rome, Italy

"Within the pages of Beat Your A-Fib, Dr. Steve Ryan, PhD, provides a comprehensive guide for persons seeking to find a cure for their Atrial Fibrillation."

Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

Medicines, Herbs and Supplements: ‘Natural’ Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Safer, or Better

By Patti Ryan, based on an article from the National Institutes of Health

Nature has been good to us. Nature gave us aspirin and morphine, and other medicines derived from plants. The use of plants as medicines has a long history in the treatment of disease, and plants have played an important role in improving our health.

“Natural” vs. “Unnatural”

A lot of people believe that when it comes to medicine, “natural” is better, healthier and safer than “unnatural” or synthetic drugs.

Medicine and supplements: Is “natural” better, healthier and safer?

On the other hand, not all products from nature have been shown to be effective. Some dietary and herbal supplements have failed to show a benefit when scientists have studied them.

For example, several major studies of the herb Echinacea did not find evidence of benefit against the common cold. Studies of ginkgo, including a large study that enrolled more than 3,000 older adults, found that ginkgo supplements don’t help prevent or slow dementia or cognitive decline.

“Natural” Medicines Can Have Side Effects Too

Contrary to what many may think, some “natural” medicines can even have serious safety concerns.

For example, kava, a plant native to the islands of the South Pacific, and often used as a dietary supplement for anxiety, may be associated with severe liver damage.

Ephedra, an evergreen shrub-like plant native to central Asia and Mongolia that has been used for centuries for colds, fever, and other conditions, is associated with heart problems and risk of death. (In fact, the U.S. FDA banned dietary supplements with ephedrine alkaloids.)

Free of chemicals? ... But everything is made of chemicals!

Are “Natural” Medicines Chemical Free?

Some people also believe that “natural” products are safe because they believe these medicines are free of chemicals. For many, the word “chemical” has come to mean toxic or synthetic, something to be avoided.

But everything is made of chemicals. The apple on your kitchen countertop, the ceramic mug in your cupboard, and even the air that you breathe. In fact, you are made up of chemicals, too.

Some chemicals in nature are toxic to us—mercury, snake venom, arsenic, and ricin from castor beans. But other chemicals are good for us and necessary for life—like iron and oxygen (but at high doses are toxic and can even cause death).

When Considering a Herbal or Dietary Supplement

Do your research first!

It’s important to understand that although many herbal or dietary supplements (and some prescription drugs) come from natural sources, “natural” does not always mean that it’s a safer or better option for your health.

And a “chemical” ingredient can be beneficial. An herbal supplement may contain dozens of chemical compounds (but all of its ingredients may not yet be known).

Before you add herbals and supplements to complement your treatment plan, do your research! Strive to make informed decisions about your health.

Our Favorite Resources on Vitamins, Herbs and Supplements

Take charge of your health by being an informed consumer. Find out what the scientific evidence says about the safety of a supplement and whether it works. A good place to start is an unbiased, non-commercial searchable database. Here are our favorites:

1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute/Integrative Medicine:About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products
2. Natural Products Professional database
3. The ‘Dietary Supplement Label Database’ and Herbs at a Glance at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

For a detailed report, see our FAQ: Where can I find reliable, unbiased research and information on specific vitamins and supplements

Don’t Forget: Keep Your Health Care Providers Informed

To use vitamins, herbs and supplements safely, read and follow the label instructions, and recognize that “natural” does not always mean “safe.”

It’s important to tell all your health care providers about all supplements you take. Be sure to update this information every time you visit your doctors’ offices. That way, they can help you avoid harmful interactions.

Resource for this Article
Natural Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Safer, or Better. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Last modified October 19, 2017.

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