Choose wisely. Your ‘natural’ product may not be so natural!

Many of you use herbal medicines for help with a wide variety of health issues; from digestive support to the alleviation of intensely itchy eczema. This is good, and is the way it should be. Our bodies come from Nature and, as such, depend on Nature for health and nourishment. Unfortunately there are many so-called ‘herbal’ products on the market which, while claiming to be all natural, are of poor quality, contain many unnecessary fillers, the wrong species of plant, and may in fact be contaminated with not-so natural ingredients. These poor manufacturing practices degrade both the effectiveness and safety of herbal medicines, which ultimately means that you do not get better! The World Health Organization (WHO) declares that the adulteration of herbal medicine products is a threat to consumer safety.

Research published last year in BMC medicine used DNA barcoding to test 44 different manufactured herbal products readily available in North America, representing 12 companies, to see if the ingredients found inside the herbal product actually matched what was listed on the label. Roughly one third of the products tested contained contaminants, substitutions or fillers not listed on the label, some of which may actually pose serious health risks.

This news was not new to me. Before I myself studied Chinese medicine, I used to use an external cream called ‘999’, easily purchased from any China town pharmacy, which was said to be ‘all natural’ and good for itchy skin conditions. It worked great! I then learned that this cream contained a very potent steroid called ‘dexamethasone’, which can cause serious harm if over used. I was obviously very angry for being mislead and stopped using it immediately. Because of that experience, I now only prescribe herbal medicine products that I, or someone whom I trust, have personally prepared using high quality ingredients (best if from the actual dried plant itself).

I commonly see patients bringing home herbal products from India and China, many of which are most likely contaminated with ingredients not listed on the label. What we think is natural and safe may be far from it. Unless recommended by someone you trust, please be very careful when using any manufactured ‘natural’ product, as we really do not know what is truly in it. This goes for homeopathic medicines, as contaminates such as heavy metals and even pharmaceutical drugs are commonly reported in them as well. Seek out reliable sources.

Herbal medicines are powerful. I have personally seen them transform many people’s lives; turning dry, red and itchy eczema back into smooth healthy skin once again; regulating women’s delayed menstrual cycles back to 28 days; soothing the chronic diarrhea of an inflammatory bowel disease; and so much more! The effect of any herbal medicine product is, of course, only as good as its quality, so choose your medicines wisely. You deserve the great benefits that herbal medicines can deliver.

Dr. Erikson uses Chinese herbal medicines to treat a variety of skin conditions. He can be reached by phone at 778.886.1180 or through his website at