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When does it matter what herbal medicine you use?

The latest data from the National Health Service suggests that if you are taking any form of herbal medicine for any reason, it is likely that you will experience side effects including depression, anxiety and fatigue. 

“We found that for people who have been taking the medicines for at least one year, a range of symptoms have been observed, including fatigue, mood changes, mood-disorder symptoms, depression, and weight gain,” Dr Caroline Wilson, from the NHS England, told the BBC.

“If you are trying to prevent or manage depression, or are taking antidepressant medication, it might be a better idea to consider using an alternative medication.”

She added: “If you have not used the medicine in at least six months, we think you are probably OK to take it, but if you have used it for more than a year, then it might not be right for you.”

Dr Wilson’s advice is not universally shared by other health professionals, and in the case of herbal medicines, she warned that it was “not a good idea to stop taking them” unless you are sure you are not taking the wrong form of medicine. 

The NHS has now launched a new website, health.nhs.uk, that offers more detailed advice about herbal medicines. 

In the meantime, if you take the medicines prescribed by your GP, you may be surprised to learn that they are often ineffective or may even cause side effects.

The most common adverse effects are headaches, nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, rashes and flu-like symptoms.

However, Dr Wilson said the most common side effects were depression, mood disorders and weight loss.

“For many people, these are very common, but it depends on the individual,” she said. 

While herbal medicines do not have to be taken in the same way as regular drugs, if your GP recommends you use them, you should carefully consider the risks and benefits of each method. 

 What is an herbal medicine?

 There are many herbal medicines that are used to treat various conditions, such as asthma, depression and allergies.

Some of the most commonly used herbal medicines are:Amphetamines, such the class of amphetamine-type drugs that include cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine and the amphetamine derivative phenethylamine;