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Ask the Herbalist - Toxicity of Specific Herbs

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: Many herbs contain Thujone, and I'm concerned about toxicity... According to wikipedia, it is toxic to brain and liver.  Do you know the tolerable limits of Thujone in herbs such as Rosemary, and others?  I'm using Rosemary as an antiviral, antioxidant...  I have fibromyalgia... I would also like to know if there are any precautions for Fenugreek sprouts...  I'm taking them for various things...

ANSWER: The amount of thujone in rosemary, sage, and other common herbs is quite low, so culinary amounts are not considered a concern. Even a medicinal cup of tea is considered safe for standard use and dosages. On its own, thujone is a problem, so unless you are using isolated thujone or essential oil of sage, rosemary, yarrow, or others containing small amounts, you do not need to worry about tolerable limits. There are no studies on known tolerable limits for the isolated constituent in humans.

Sage is listed by the Council of Europe as a natural source of food flavoring providing the concentration of thujones present in the final product does not exceed 0.5 mg/kg, with the exceptions of alcoholic beverages (10 mg/kg), bitters (35 mg/kg), food containing sage (25 mg/kg) and sage stuffing (250 mg/kg). Previously, in the US, sage has been listed as GRAS (Generally(Recognised As Safe). Extracts of the herbs are not recommended at higher than normal doses 6 grams a day or less or the equivalent), or for long periods of time (more than three weeks as needed).

Fenugreek sprouts (Trigonella foenum-graecum) contain several plant compounds that support its traditional food use for soothing, cholesterol-lowering and nutritive properties. Enjoy 1-6 grams three times a day. That is according to the information I have available to me and my use of fenugreek clinically over 20 years. Sprouts are less well studied but should provide many healthy nutrients with no documented safety concerns.

QUESTION: I just started using red poppy for sleep...  It didn't make me drowsy hardly, but when I did get to sleep, I did seem to sleep deeper.  I couldn't find much info on red poppy as far as toxicity.  I'm always wanting to protect my liver/kidneys...  Do you know about dosages and toxicity on poppy? 

ANSWER: You haven't found a lot on red poppy because it isn't used much, or researched. Its more famous relative, Papaver somniferum, is Opium poppy. All poppy flower heads and seeds contain trace alkaloids but I am not surprised you found that red poppy didn't help you fall asleep faster but may have helped you deepen your REM state for better dreaming. If you want to use "sleep herbs" and be safest regarding your liver and kidneys, you might go back to Passionflower, Linden flower, Chamomile, and Skullcap that is all Scutellaria species, not adulterated with Teucrium species, which is where Skullcap got its undeserved bad reputation for posing health risks.

QUESTION: I was wondering if it is safe to take genuine health greens plus powder while taking the antidepressant celexa (low dose) 10mg.  I understand greens plus cleanses the system and I am wondering if it will counter the effects of the celexa by cleansing it out of my system.

ANSWER: In my opinion and in the literature to date there is no contraindication between Celexa and the nutritional supplement you are using, any more than eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, some whole grains, and healthy protein would do. However, there are no studies proving there is no nutrient-interaction, either. If you feel well, let your doctor know. If you feel the Celexa isn't working at that 10mg dose, you can bring that to the attention of your prescribing physician. There are always other alternatives rather than a higher dose of Celexa or dropping your Greens Plus.