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separator New Depression Meds
Have you been avoiding seeking treatment for depression because you're worried about side effects from medication?

There's a class of depression medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) that tend to have fewer side effects than some of the older anti-depressant drugs. Some people experience slight nausea, jittery feelings or sexual dysfunction at first, but the symptoms often disappear over time.

Adjusting the dose or changing to a different medication can usually correct symptoms that are especially bothersome.

Source: The National Institute of Mental Health, 2001

Dangers of Herbal Interactions
We often think of herbs as safe and natural, but you actually have to be pretty careful about what you're taking. Herbs contain substances that can cause allergic reactions, side effects and adverse interactions.

For example, garlic, which is available as a supplement in many health food stores, can cause bleeding in people who are taking blood-thinning medications. And ginseng can cause a reduction in blood sugar in people taking diabetes medications.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any herbal products you use and any medications you take.

Source: J. Brody, D. Grady, et al. The New York Times Guide to Alternative Health. Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, New York, 10011., 2001

Echinacea during Cold Season?
Echinacea is an herbal alternative therapy that many healthcare professionals and researchers believe helps the immune system fight off colds. It's believed to work best if you take it at the first sign that you're getting a cold. For many people, a sore throat is one of the early indicators.

You can find echinacea in health food stores or other whole foods markets. It's sold in tea, tablet or tincture (in a medicine bottle with a dropper).

Echinacea appears to be safe for individuals with healthy immune systems. It's not a good idea for people with suppressed immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.) to take this herb.

Source: National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, 2001

Ginseng: Like Caffeine?
Ginseng is a dietary supplement sold in health food stores and whole foods markets. People often say they use it to make them feel mentally alert. It's from the root of the panax ginseng plant, which grows in Russia, parts of Asia and parts of North America.

Ginseng does have properties that stimulate the central nervous system and may also stimulate the immune system. But if you're thinking of using it as a replacement for coffee, you should know that you'll still suffer from caffeine withdrawal, even if the ginseng works well for you.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before you take ginseng to make sure it will not interact unsafely with any other drugs you may be taking.

Source: J. Swerdlow. Nature's Medicine: Plants that Heal. National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2000.

Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?
How do you know if you're getting too much caffeine?

A general guideline is to limit yourself to 200 to 300 milligrams per day, or about two cups of coffee. Caffeine can irritate your stomach and cause headaches and insomnia. It can irritate the bladder in some people as well.

Don't forget that soft drinks are also a common caffeine source.

Kids and adults should limit caffeinated drinks in favor of milk, water and maybe a little fruit juice.

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