Sunday, October 21 2007 @ 02:01 PM MSD
|The use of herbal supplements as alternative or complementary medications has increasingly become popular that by 1996, the annual sale of herbal treatments and medications in the United States reached $2.5 billion. |
Many herbal remedies are considered dietary supplements and thus are not subject to a strict evaluation by the FDA for effectiveness and safety. Although these are generally available without prescription, the information about their indications and uses is not readily available sometimes.
Most often, patients would need to rely on unverified reports or inaccurate information given to them regarding the use of herbal products. While many of these "natural" supplements are generally safe if taken as recommended, some are considered unsafe because they may produce toxic or damaging side effects.
Herbal Supplements Are Mostly Plant-Derived
Herbal treatments and medications are generally made from herbs or plants, and these supplements are added to the diet for health purposes. Although many of these medications have not yet been officially classified as drugs or medicines, some herbal supplements have been noted to work the same way as drugs and can have helpful, as well as harmful side effects.
The use of herbs to cure or alleviate diseases and infections is a universal practice among traditional societies. A lot of the established over-the-counter drugs available to doctors have a long history of use as herbal remedies, such as opium, aspirin and quinine.
Many Herbal Products Are Readily Available
Hundreds of herbal products and supplements are available. They are advertised to treat just about any symptom. However, trustworthy evidence usually doesn’t exist to support these advertising claims. Among some of the most popular herbal products and supplements sold today include echinacea, ephedra, which is also called ma huang, chondroitin sulfate, garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, glucosamine, kava, melatonin, phytoestrogens such as black cohosh, dong quai and soy, saw palmetto and St. John’s wort
Organic and Natural Treatments Are A Better Alternative
The terms "organic" and "natural" have found widespread acceptance in a wider variety of contexts. Organic gardening and natural foods come to mind at once. Advertisers frequently claim that their products are "totally organic or one hundred percent natural." What exactly do these terms actually mean? Most consumers are convinced through advertising that organic or natural products are intrinsically safer and more effective than synthetic or "chemical" products.
To the average consumer, organic means "good" because synthetic chemicals are "bad"; natural means "wholesome," and anything else is probably loaded with chemicals (i.e., bad). Some supplements are even labeled "chemical free." This assumption, however is impossible to ascertain since even an empty product container has air in it which is composed of chemicals.
The Use Of Herbal Supplements Has Been On The Rise
Utilizing herbal medications is a major facet in all traditional medicine systems, and a common ingredient in homeopathic, Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese and Native American medicine. According to the World Health Organization, 74% of 119 modern plant-derived medicines are used in methods that are similar to their traditional uses. Major drug firms are currently conducting extensive research on plants and herbs collected from the rainforests and other places for possible new pharmaceuticals.
The use, and search for, drugs and dietary supplements that are derived from plants has increased in recent years. Pharmacologists, botanists, and chemists are searching and analyzing many plants and phytochemicals that could be developed for treatment of many types of diseases.
Vanessa Arellano Doctor