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A recent headline in a Kentucky newspaper read:  “How a bank robber became a trailer park shaman with Kentucky ayahuasca”  As I read the article about the alleged benefits of ayahuasca, I could not help but think of all the recent onslaught of herbal remedies that sound too good to be true.  Ayahuasca is being claimed to be a cure for PTSD, addiction, depression and anxiety, among others.  Similarly, we read daily anecdotal evidence about the benefits of CBD oils.

The problem is, when these remedies contain psychedelics, illegal drugs or other substances that may not be safely mixed with other “modern” medicines, people are putting themselves at great risk of harm or death.

For example, ayahuasca, when properly made, contains a schedule 1 controlled substance – dimethyltryptamine (DMT).  Possession of DMT is illegal.  The only way these “shamans” get away with ayahuasca is by claiming a religious exemption under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  But just because there may be a legal loophole does not mean it is safe.

There are numerous wrongful death lawsuits on-going against “churches” who perform these hallucinogenic rituals.

Even if they do not kill you, other herbal remedies are starting to cause substantial problems for unsuspecting users.  For example, many doctors are reporting that patients taking CBD oils in various forms for various ailments are testing positive for THC – the active ingredient in marijuana.

The problem here is CBD oil is not supposed to contain THC.  Imagine the over the road truck driver who buys a CBD lotion for hand pain only to test positive for THC, get a DUI and lose his livelihood.  Moreover, in the wake of the opioid crises, many elderly patients are finding that they are unable to get prescriptions for certain medicines that they need because they are testing positive for THC.  Most doctor’s offices have policies in place that prevent doctors from prescribing certain medications if the patient is taking “street” drugs.  The unknown risks are simply too great to chance.

While FDA approval is certainly no guarantee that a medicine does not have risks, at least it means the drug is being studied in a controlled and scientific manner.  Indications and contra-indications guide doctors and other medical professionals to make sure that interactions are safe.

Further, with most prescribed medicines there is an ability to confirm quality.  Even if CBD oil is the panacea we want it to be, properly made it will not contain THC.  How can a consumer know that what they are buying is what it is claimed to be?  Unfortunately, that’s the $64,000 question.  For now, the best bet is to purchase herbal remedies from a reputable pharmacy or better yet, talk to your doctor about why you want to take the herbal to begin with – they may be able to point you in a number of different and safer ways.

Like the Kentucky shaman was quoted in the article “You know how desperate you have to be to come all the way across the country to see a broke-tooth convict in the middle of a trailer park in (rural) Kentucky? And drink muddy water that you have no clue what’s in it?” he said.  Well, with the help of your local medical professional, you don’t need to be that desperate.

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