Herbal medicines and supplements are often called "alternative medicine" because
in many cases we don't have a wealth of biomedical research to support their
safety and efficacy, ideal dosage, drug interactions, or side effects. . .but their use is mainstream. According to Prevention
Magazine (7/99), Americans now make more than 600 million visits to alternative
practitioners per year, almost double the number of visits per year to family
physicians. And while 4 out of 10 Americans say they have tried some form of
alternative medicine, 7 out of 10 of them have not shared this information with
The good news about alternative medicines is that our research base to support
their use (or not) is increasing. However, I do have some concerns about the
am concerned about patients who fear the side effects of "traditional" medicines
so they choose herbal remedies assuming that they must be safe since they're
sold over-the-counter. Most consumers
do not realize that herbal products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration
the same way that prescription or standard over-the-counter medicines are.
Next, I am concerned about patients who think that "If a little is good, a
lot is better." They take their prescriptions as well as several other herbal
products! Many of these products may cause interactions, negate the effects
of their prescriptions, or may simply be redundant.
Finally, I am concerned about patients who have been advised against taking
certain prescription products for medical reasons and then take herbal "alternatives"
not realizing that their active ingredients may act in the same way.
The bottom line? If you are taking herbal products or supplements, know what you're taking and why. As with any medicines, be sure to discuss them
with your healthcare provider and make sure this information is in your medical
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Created: 4/30/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.