The use of herbal medicines has seen a great upsurge globally. In developing countries, many patronize them largely due to cultural acceptability, availability and cost. In developed countries, they are used because they are natural and therefore assumed to be safer than allopathic medicines. In recent times, however, there has been a growing concern about their safety. This has created a situation of ambivalence in discussions regarding their use. Some medicinal plants are intrinsically toxic by virtue of their constituents and can cause adverse reactions if inappropriately used. Other factors such as herb-drug interactions, lack of adherence to good manufacturing practice (GMP), poor regulatory measures and adulteration may also lead to adverse events in their use. Many in vivo tests on aqueous extracts largely support the safety of herbal medicines, whereas most in vitro tests on isolated single cells mostly with extracts other than aqueous ones show contrary results and thus continue the debate on herbal medicine safety. It is expected that toxicity studies concerning herbal medicine should reflect their traditional use to allow for rational discussions regarding their safety for their beneficial use. While various attempts continue to establish the safety of various herbal medicines in man, their cautious and responsible use is required.
Part of the book: Herbal Medicine