With more and more pharmaceutical medications being linked to nasty side effects, more and more people are looking for natural home remedies to cure minor ailments and conditions. Friends, books and websites recommend many different herbs to take for various health issues. Believe it or not, you may be playing Russian roulette.

The problem is that herbal and natural doesn’t always mean safe. An even bigger problem is that many herbs that are just as dangerous as pharmaceuticals are not subject to the same restrictions, so they’re sold freely over the counter. This makes people think they’re safe, but it’s not necessarily true. They can be just as damaging to your health as chemical drugs.

Here are some commonly recommended herbs that you should never self-prescribe, and should always consult a health care specialist before taking them regularly.

The problem is that herbal and natural doesn’t always mean safe.


Herbal remedy advocates have long promoted goldenseal as a general cure-all herb. It has been offered to people for digestive problems, constipation, as an anti-inflammatory, for throat problems and sore gums. Sounds too good to be true, right?

It is, actually. Goldenseal can cause high blood pressure. Taking even moderate doses regularly can lead to delirium and hallucinations. Used externally it can cause skin ulcerations.


Garlic is very healthy as part of a balanced diet. Adding some to the stew or the lasagna is good for you. The problem is that people are not just eating garlic in small doses anymore; some are taking garlic teas and supplements in order to get more benefits from the herb.

Unfortunately, more is not always better. Garlic when combined with aspirin or blood thinners can put you at risk for bleeding.


Topically, aloe has been long hailed for its ability to sooth sunburn and minor skin irritations. Internally, it's been used as a tonic for stomach upset.

More and more herbal websites will give you instructions to mix a spoonful of aloe in with water or a beverage and to drink it as a digestive aid.

Just say "no". Aloe taken internally can create abnormal heart rhythms. Taken in too large a dose and you might find yourself experiencing intestinal pain, diarrhea and projectile vomiting. This, of course, puts you at terrible risk for dehydration, which can be serious.


For ages, people recommended coltsfoot as a natural remedy for sore throats. Some people still go by their old herbal books, or by their grandma's advice from 50 years ago.

This is exactly why herbs should not be self-prescribed by non-medical people New research has shown coltsfoot to cause liver cancer. Stay away from it at all costs.

St. John's Wort

For a few years now, St. John’s wort has been offered as a ‘safe’ tea for self-treatment of depression. Unfortunately, there are a host of health problems to which it can contribute.

Some of the more minor symptoms include swelling and skin irritations. Increased usage of St. John's wort in fair people can begin to cause photosensitivity. Drinking it can lead to loss of appetite and act as a tranquilizer, making it dangerous for you to drive, operate machinery or do anything you wouldn't do while under the influence of sedatives.

Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh is often recommended to women to help regulate the period or suppress menstruation temporarily (for example, if that beach vacation you booked a year ago ends up falling squarely on the week of your heavy flow, a friend might recommend drinking blue cohosh tea or taking supplement pills to make yourself late, deliberately). It's also often recommended to pregnant woman to induce labor, make labor go easily and with less pain.

The scary part is that the seeds are so toxic they can kill children. Overdose can result in miscarriages. It can damage your intestines and heart muscle, and at the very least it can be an extreme irritant to the mucous membranes. That will ruin your vacation worse that your period.