Thursday, January 24, 2008
Herbal medicines should be treated like any other drug

By Anthony Policastro, M.D

Many people have a misconception that because herbal remedies are natural, therefore, they must be safe. However, they are drugs. Just like any drug, there are potential problems. The result is that you could very easily take something that can harm you. One only has to look at the large number of deadly plants to realize how false this notion is. I once took care of a boy that died after eating one poisoned mushroom that his family had picked. The digitalis plant will kill you if you eat too much of it. Holly berries are dangerous. Philodendron and rhododendron are poisonous if eaten. The green part at the top of a carrot can turn your skin orange in the sunlight if eaten. The list goes on and on. When a physician writes a prescription, he/she writes the name of the drug, the concentration of the drug and the dose of the drug. All of these have been scientifically determined. The same cannot be said of remedies that do not come with a prescription. When you buy an herbal product, you may not get the correct drug, since the pharmacist is not prescribing it. You may not get the right concentration because the FDA does not control the quality of producing these substances. You may not take the right amount because no one knows for sure what the right amount is. It is important to know what you are taking. It is important to know the side effects. Unfortunately, side effects might not be known about immediately. For example we used alcohol for thousands of years before the fetal alcohol syndrome was discovered. The best course of action is a cautious one. Know what you are using. Make sure it is the correct drug. Make sure you know about the side effects. Make sure you are certain of the correct dose. Many patients do not tell their physicians which herbal medicines they are taking. The result is that they may have an increased chance of bleeding during surgery and the physician does not know it. The other possibility is that the physician will prescribe a drug that will interact with the herbal medicine. Therefore, it is important for anyone taking an herbal medicine to include it in their list of medicines when a physician asks them that question. Many herbal medicines have been shown to have benefits. Therefore, many individuals use them. However, like all medications, there are some side effects. There are also some interactions with other medications that can be deadly. You should be as cautious with these drugs as you are with any other drug that you take.

Fitness open house at Del Tech
Learn about the variety of fitness options available at Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus at the free Gymnasium Complex Open House on Saturday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m. to noon, in the Jason Technology Center. Instructors will be available to answer questions; attendees will receive refreshments, giveaways, and special discounts. Register early for winter and spring fun and fitness courses offered on and off-campus. Choices for adults include ballroom and belly dancing, Pilates, golf, riding, tai chi, yoga and more. Classes offered for children include ballet, tumbling, fitness, golf and horseback riding. Owens Campus state-of-the-art Gymnasium Complex, now open five nights a week until 7 p.m., includes a basketball court, fitness center complete with a cardio/weight training room, exercise room and locker rooms for men and women. For more information, contact the Corporate and Community Programs Division at 854-6966.

Protection from Abuse
On Tuesday, Jan. 29, join us at the Georgetown CHEER Center for an informative program on "Protection from Abuse." Antoinette Johnson from Legal Aid will be at the center located in the State Service Center, 546 S. Bedford St., Georgetown, at 10 a.m. for this presentation. For more information call the center at 302-856-5187.

Stroke support group
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer free monthly Stroke Support Group meetings designed for individuals who have survived a stroke and their families and caregivers. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. Sheila Brant and Joan Burditt, occupational therapists at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will facilitate the support group meetings. Pre-registration is not required. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 5121.

Look-In Glass Shoppe holding sale
The Look-In Glass Shoppe, located in the main lobby at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will sponsor a sale of name brand quality bedding and linens on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 24 and 25 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The linen sale will feature quality bedding and linens from name brands at great prices. Comforter sets, sheets, quilts, blankets, curtains, beds in a bag and bath and kitchen accessories will be available. Proceeds will benefit Nanticoke Health Services. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 2301/4955.

Bayhealth plans annual baby fair
Bayhealth Medical Center's 12th Annual Healthy Baby Fair will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a new location, at South Dover Elementary School, located at 955 South State Street in Dover. With a theme of "Healthy Days, Safe Nights," the fair will feature free presentations, educational materials, local vendors, giveaways, door prizes and light refreshments. Crafts and fun activities for children will be available. Special activities include music and movement from 10:30 to 11 a.m., native reptile and amphibian display by Abbott's Mill Nature Center and Bayhealth's Teddy Bear Clinic. This event is free to the public and pre-registration is not required. For more information, call Bayhealth Maternal-Child Educator Wendy Lovette, RN, LCCE, IBCLC, at 302-744-6229.