Although many of the prescription and over-the-counter drugs used today are derived from plants, there is a big difference between the two. Conventional drugs, which must be approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are based on an active ingredient. Manufacturers find a chemical that provides a desired response when taken into the body, and then they synthesize that chemical. In other words, a conventional drug is based on a chemical that is made in a laboratory, even though it may have originally come from a plant.
Herbal or botanical medications are taken from the natural chemicals within a plant. Either the extract is taken in its original form, sometimes combined with other herbal extracts, or it is refined. When an herbal medication is refined, the essential extract is taken out of the plant source, concentrated and then added back to make the original herbal medication more potent.
Why do I need to tell my dentist if I take herbal supplements?
Always tell your dentist about all medications and supplements you are taking and how much you take. From vitamins to Echinacea, everything you put in your body causes a certain reaction, and some alternative medicines are very potent. That reaction can interfere with medications your dentist gives you or enhance them to cause a much stronger reaction. If your dentist doesn't know what drugs or supplements you have taken, he or she will not know how to protect you from possible substance interactions.
Reviewed: January 2012