Get free help preparing your taxes from AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Find a location


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy
Bob Dylan Talks!


Military and Veterans Discount


You Could Choose Your Dream Vacation


Introducing RealPad by AARP


AARP Auto Buying Program


Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Download the ipad App



AARP Games - Play Now!

Learning Centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.


Heart Disease


Most Popular


Bush Medicine: Read Before You Proceed

If you are like many people, someone has told you about an herb (‘bush”) that will cure everything from asthma to diabetes to cancer. Herbs and herbal supplements are becoming popular as people are seduced by miraculous claims of healing. Do herbal remedies help? The answer is yes and no. Yes, there are many beneficial herbs that are available. However, used recklessly, herbs can actually cause health problems or even death.
Isn’t “Natural” Better?

Before drugs were manufactured in a lab, the active ingredients were obtained from plants. So, in reality, plants are natural (in their unprocessed state) but they also can be toxic or deadly if used incorrectly. A plant is not necessarily less harmful simply because it is “natural.” For example, people use soursop leaves in tea to relax. However, used too much or too frequently causes excessive sleepiness.

Claims Too Good To Be True

Again, using soursop as an example, this is an herb that has been hyped recently as a cure for cancer. For something as serious as cancer, it is irresponsible to promote the idea that a plant growing in one’s back yard can provide a cure. Common sense should prevail. If soursop were a proven cure for cancer, then a pharmaceutical company would be scrambling to put it in a pill; the money to be made would be unimaginable. With all herbs, if something seems too good to be true, proceed with caution.

If It’s Sold in the Pharmacy, It Must be Regulated

Not true. In the United States, herbs are not regulated as drugs. There are no standards as to how companies process or package herbs. You can’t be sure how much of the herb you will be getting when you buy it in stores. The most that you will see on the label from the FDA is: “This product has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

If it Worked for My Friend It Will Work For Me

A friend of yours may have gotten pain relief by using a particular bush and you may be tempted to do the same thing. Stop! Our bodies are all different. Just because something worked for your friend, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you. You wouldn’t go into your friends’ medicine cabinet and take her medicine, would you?

What Are Some Other Recommendations for Using Herbs Safely?

Always seek a diagnosis from a doctor before taking herbs, especially for serious conditions. Tell your doctor of any herbs that you are taking, certain herbs should not be taken with some traditional medicines.

Seek out a reputable, well-known bush woman or man if using plants.

Know the Latin name of the plants that you are using and what they look like. For example, there is the St. John’s Bush, grown locally in the Virgin Islands, which is not at all the same as St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum). Using St. John’s Bush will not provide the same results as St. John’s Wort, which is used for mild to moderate depression

Check reputable websites for information. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements is an excellent start.
Back to Article

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members get exclusive points offers from Walgreens, Duane Reade and

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

AARP membership discount Man trying on eyeglasses at optometrists smiling

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at LensCrafters.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.