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Are herbs safe?

Written by Simon Mills

Overview

This is a longer thought piece that reflects the many levels at which this question can be addressed. However it is still a summary review and we have not included detailed literature references. The foundations for these arguments were thoroughly researched in our seminal text.[1] This has stood up well over the years and is recommended as a basis for any detailed personal updating.

In this review we conclude that herbs are not a public hazard, and that humans have always been very good at avoiding plants that upset them. However we have never been as sure of the effects of long-term exposure, and there are other reasons to be aware of what can go wrong. A few sensible precautions are warranted.


[1]  Mills S & Bone K (2005) The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.

I am a Cambridge medical sciences graduate and have been a herbal practitioner in Exeter since 1977. In that time I have led the main professional and trade organizations for herbal medicine in the UK and served on Government and House of Lords committees. I have written standard textbooks used by herbal practitioners around the world, including with Professor Kerry Bone from Australia.

I was involved in academic work for many years, co-founding the University of Exeter pioneering Centre for Complementary Health Studies in 1987 (where we built a complementary research and postgraduate teaching programme from scratch), then at Peninsula the first integrated health course at a UK medical school, and the first Masters degree in herbal medicine in the USA, at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

I am particularly fascinated by the insights we can distill from the millions of intelligent people who over many centuries needed plants to survive. Mostly I want to learn and share the old skills, to experience healing plants as characters, that can help us fend off ill health. My passion for offering people tools to look after themselves and their families has led me to work with the founders of the College of Medicine on pioneering national self care and social prescribing projects. I am now the College Self Care Lead and also Herbal Strategist at Pukka Herbs

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