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Bipolar Disorder Supplements

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Are natural therapies safe and effective?

No matter what the advertising flyer claims at the natural food store, even the most popular medicinal herbs with pharmaceutical compounds have ingredients that have not been tested and are not scrutinized by FDA. Unlike products that have FDA approval, many herbal products have not gone through clinical trials to show that they are safe and effective before going onto the market.

As we learn more about natural remedies, some alternative treatments may emerge as the best strategies for treating health conditions, while others may lead to severe side effects. That said, this does not mean that natural supplements do not work -- and there are many natural supplements that are safe and effective. Supplements may work differently for some people than for others. You need to pay attention to what works for you and obtain the professional guidance of your doctor.

One of the most common mistakes people make when using alternative treatments is to stop the conventional medical treatment altogether. In most cases, supplements are not a proven alternative to medication for treating bipolar disorder, but sometimes may help in addition to your medicine.

Also, keep in mind that supplements -- as natural as they may be -- can still interact with your medication. That’s why it’s important to discuss all medications and supplements with your doctor. If your doctor isn’t familiar with any potential interactions, your pharmacist is another good source of information.

And as a rule of thumb, just because something is natural doesn't mean that it is always safe (remember, plants like hemlock and nighshade are also natural, but poisonous!). Even supplements have side effects.

Herbal treatments are not recommended without medical supervision for pregnant women, children, the elderly, people with ongoing disease processes (basically anyone taking a prescribed medicine regularly) or those with compromised immune systems. In addition, some herbs have sedative or blood-thinning qualities, which may dangerously interact with NSAIDs or other pain medications. Others may cause gastrointestinal upset if taken in large doses.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 26, 2012
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