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The Unsettling Side Effects of Common Herbal Supplements

The Unsettling Side Effects of Common Herbal Supplements

    There is a booming market for herbal and dietary supplements in the US. We’ll try any pill or herb that claims to make our minds sharper or our stress levels lower. Anything is worth experimenting with once if it can boost our productivity.

    While most over-the-counter herbal supplements are perfectly safe, some of the pills you may be taking could be harmful to your health. If you’ve been consuming any herbal supplements to improve the number of productive hours you have each day, familiarize yourself with some of the potential side effects below.

    DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to treat, prevent, or cure any ailment. Always consult your doctor before starting a herbal supplement regimen to make sure that there are no complications due to your health or any other medications that you may currently be taking.

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    1. Caffeine

    Okay, caffeine doesn’t really count as a dietary supplement…but so many of us consume it daily in such large quantities that it is worth discussing its effects the body.

    As a drug that can boost energy levels, caffeine is one of our oldest pick-me-ups. However, too much caffeine causes stomach problems, jitters, insomnia, and dehydration. Avoid the energy drinks and over-sized espresso drinks, and stick to one small cup of coffee at a time.

    2. Ginkgo

    Ginkgo biloba herbal supplements are taken by people looking to increase their memory or concentration, making them a popular choice with both students and those over 50. There is also some evidence to suggest ginko supplements can aid with preventing further memory loss for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, although additional study is needed.

    However, if you take ginkgo with Ibuprofen or any blood thinners (such as Coumadin or aspirin), this can enhance the anticoagulant properties of these medications. This can cause excessive bleeding or increased chance of bruising.

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    3. St. John’s Wort

    Pale-skinned, depressed ladies beware! There is one herbal supplement you may need to steer clear of. St. John’s Wort is an herb that can decrease feelings of depression and elevate your mood.

    However, if you take it every day, you’ll need to start amping up your SPF, as this herb has been linked to severe sun reactions.

    More troubling, St. John’s Wort can increase the rate at which estrogen is broken down by the body…and for ladies on the birth control pill, that can mean increased risk of unintended pregnancy.

    4. Kava

    Kava is used to calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness, and treat insomnia. However, it can exacerbate depression symptoms, and can also cause liver damage. If you already are suffering from liver disease, or are taking meds that increase the sensitivity of your liver, talk to you doctor before starting a kava regimen.

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    5. Yohimbe

    Yohimbe bark has a variety of uses, including treating sexual dysfunction for men and women, boosting energy for athletes, and aiding in weight loss. However, yohimbe seems to cause more problems than it is probably worth.

    Minor side effects of taking yohimbe bark include upset stomach, vomiting, irregular sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, headaches, irritability, skin rashes, and rapid heartbeat.

    If you overindulge in this supplement, you may also face diminished respiratory function, high fever, kidney problems, and lupus-like symptoms.

    6. Echinacea

    Echinacea is a common choice for people looking to get over a common cold. It’s worth noting that echinacea shouldn’t be used for preventing a cold, but rather just for shortening the duration of cold symptoms.

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    However, people who are allergic to ragweed or daisy pollen can have a similar allergic reaction to echinacea. This herbal supplement can also cause caffeine to break down more slowly, prolonging the caffeine jitters.

    People suffering from disease like lupus, MS, or rheumatoid arthritis should also avoid echinacea, since it can interfere adversely with immune system processes in certain cases.

    Conclusion

    If you want to learn more about the side effects of common herbal supplements like the ones listed above, the National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus site is an invaluable resource.

    While herbal supplements are usually safe for most people, many supplements are not endorsed by the FDA, and women who are pregnant or nursing need to be especially careful before starting a supplement regime. Herbal supplements can be a great way to increase your productivity, but only if you can handle the side effects.

    When purchasing herbal supplements, make sure to buy them from reputable dealers. According to one doctor interviewed by PBS, some herbal supplements contain filler like grass or chamomile, and up to 30% of some herbal supplement pills on the market do not contain the main ingredient advertised on the label.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

    More About Working From Home

    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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