Curious about natural health? Intrigued by herbal and nutritional supplements? Or perhaps you have already embraced natural living. You take vitamins, food supplements, even herbal remedies. But your conventionally-minded friends and family gasp "Is it safe?"
It's fascinating what we perceive as safe and trustworthy and what we don't. In American culture, lab-manufactured products, particularly by doctors and scientists, seem to garner far more trust that those created by Mother Nature. Interestingly, there is in fact a much greater risk of death associated with the use of pharmaceutical drugs than there is in using natural food supplements. Although the WHO "estimates that about 60% of the world’s people uses herbal medicine for treating their sicknesses," those in Western culture still tend to perceive natural supplements as risky.
A new study released by the Alliance for Natural Health gathered data on potential risk assessments of death from a wide range of causes, from lightning strikes and motorcycle accidents, to smoking and asbestos exposure for individuals in the UK. The data should put the fears of your friends and family members to rest. For example, UK individuals were "797,940 times more likely to die from smoking than from taking a food supplement." Winding up in a UK hospital posed a similar death risk as a tour of active military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Individuals were 36,625 more likely to die from preventable medical injuries than from taking an herbal medicine. Overall, residents of the UK were "about as likely to be hit by lightning" as they were to "die from taking herbal remedies or dietary supplements."
Interesting as well is a 2008 report that shows that just 35% of those surveyed on behalf of the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had ever used herbal remedies, with the largest participating group being women. Although 6 in 10 respondents felt that herbal remedies were safe, only 40% believed that they were safe because they were "natural".
Perhaps the new risk assessment report will help alleviate some of the safety concerns for holistic remedies and empower more people - and particularly women, who spend 2/3 of healthcare dollars - to embrace alternative remedies. Researchers are working on expanding their data results across the European Union to assess individual risk further. In the meantime, it's safe to say that herbal and food supplements pose minimal risk for most of us.