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Understanding the Risks

Are there any risks to using CAM treatments?

Yes, there can be risks, as with any medical therapy. These risks depend upon the specific CAM treatment. The following are general suggestions to help you learn about or minimize the risks.

  • Discuss with your health care practitioner any CAM treatment that you are considering or are using; it is important for your safety and for a comprehensive treatment plan. For example, herbal or botanical products and other dietary supplements may interact with medications (prescription or non-prescription). They may also have negative, even dangerous, effects on their own. Research has shown that the herb St. John's wort, which is used by some people to treat depression, may cause certain drugs to become less effective. And kava, an herb that has been used for insomnia, stress, and anxiety, has been linked to liver damage.

  • If you have more than one health care provider, let all of them know about CAM and conventional therapies you are using. This will help each provider make sure that all aspects of your health care work together.

  • Take charge of your health by being an informed consumer. Find out what the scientific evidence is about any treatment's safety and whether it works.

  • If you decide to use a CAM treatment that would be given by a practitioner, choose the practitioner carefully to help minimize any possible risks.

WebMD Public Information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Reviewed on February 01, 2004

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