Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Risks of Using Natural Expectorants

When dealing with natural ingredients, it is important to bear in mind that a particular ingredient may elicit as range of effects because it may contain a number of different active compounds (both currently known and possibly yet to be determined). This issue has been touched upon in various articles throughout this site e.g. How do Natural Decongestant Foods and Drinks Work?, and once again, the same principle applies to the use of natural expectorants.

It is for this reason, that an ingredient categorized on this site based on a particular attribute (e.g. being an example of a natural expectorant), may be cited elsewhere based on the other properties it exhibits. To illustrate this point, garlic can be categorized equally as an anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and a decongestant or an expectorant to name but a few possibilities. Alternatively, Exocarpium Citri Grandis (a.k.a. Hua Ju Hong or Pummelo Peel) has been used by traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat nausea and vomiting (antiemetic) but also as an anti-inflammatory, antitussive (coughing suppressant) and natural expectorant (Jiang et al.2014). Therefore, when dealing with natural ingredients, one needs to have the mindset that they are often too complex in nature to be categorized into just one all-encompassing ‘perfect box’.

Why is it important to be aware of this?

As was intimated in various articles in the section Understanding Natural Treatment (See: CAM, Natural Remedies, Supplements and BioavailabilityCAM, Natural Medicine and Treatment – Fact or Fiction? and Risks of Using Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)), it is advisable to have at least a basic grasp of the active ingredients present in what we consume and not take things ‘blindly’.  In particular, labeling an item or ingredient as natural does not automatically mean that it is effective, safe or comes without side effects.

Risks of Using Natural Expectorants

Furthermore, although an ingredient may be taken for one particular attribute, its other qualities may interfere with pre-existing medical conditions or medications taken by someone, leading to a detrimental outcome. For example, even though a person may use garlic as an expectorant, if they take prescribed anticoagulants such as Warfarin, they might need to monitor the amount of natural anticoagulants they consume with foods or supplements rich in garlic and cease taking it in higher doses 7-10 days prior to surgery (Tattelman 2005).  

Elaborating on this a little further; even if we take a conservative view that only a small percentage of garlic’s 200+ chemical compounds (Pacchioli 1999) which are currently known are active medicinally – and given that there are 150+ species of garlic (Allium sativum) to be assessed – the number of permutations and combinations of interactions (both positive and negative) of garlic with a myriad of medical conditions and medications, is potentially vast.

Therefore, although one cannot realistically be expected to be an expert on every aspect of what we consume, having a ‘basic grasp’ raises our general awareness and respect about what we consume and the potential impact both good and bad for our body. This touches on issues such as the efficacy of the natural remedy or technique, the potential side effects and whether its touted benefits are purely anecdotal or supported by scientific research and peer-reviewed clinical studies.

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