Many people choose to take multivitamins or other health supplements in order to top up on nutrients they may be missing out on through their normal diet. Others choose to look into herbal remedies or traditional folk medicines as a complement to modern health care.
However, a new article published in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber highlights the importance of personal research in this area. According to author Jerome Sarris, a Senior Research Fellow from the University of Melbourne and the Swinburne University of Technology, mental health concerns is one reason why some people choose nutrient or herbal-based supplements.
For example, kava is one of the most popular (and most researched) herbal medicines for the treatment of anxiety. Dr Sarris states that while there is some evidence showing kava can be helpful for reducing anxiety, it is also linked to liver problems and other secondary health issues.
He says people who take kava should avoid alcohol, tranquillisers and sleeping pills. The drink is also yet to be confirmed as a safe complementary remedy alongside antidepressant medicines.
Aside from kava, Dr Sarris names omega-3 fatty acids, St. John's wort, S-adenosyl-methionine and zinc as having potential benefits for improving mood. Unfortunately, while there is scientific evidence to support some supplements and herbal remedies, others have little to no data behind their use. In addition to this, adding these supplements to the diet has not been linked to mental disorder prevention.
This makes it even more important for everyone to research their medicinal choices thoroughly, in order to make informed decisions about their supplementary intake.
"We're seeing an increase in the use of complementary medicines for mental health conditions, but it's important for people to be aware of potential interactions between prescription drugs, herbal medicines and supplements," Dr Sarris said in a statement released June 2.
"It's also important for people to know that quality is an issue and variations can occur between complementary products, particularly herbal medicines."
The best course of action is to consult your health professional and exercise caution in all cases. Whether your medicine is an over-the-counter product, complementary, alternative, herbal or prescribed, it's vital to understand how it works and what effects it may have on your body and mind.
Australian health insurance can help you get the medical care and services you need, and there are a variety of policies available to cater for different needs. If you're unsure about which plan would be right for you, an experienced broker can help you compare health insurance funds thoroughly.