Are Herbal Supplements Safe?

Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

O’Connor, A. (2013, November 3). Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/herbal-supplements-are-often-not-what-they-seem.html?_r=1&

This is a bit of a scary introduction to an overivew of a recently published study on the composition of herbal products. This study supports a lot of the fears that most physicians have when it comes to over-the-counter medications and suppletments.

Not that I am against herbal medications since many of the medicines we rely on today are derived from plants. Even FDA approved medications have its dangers and often biases exists in how existing research is conducted. But, the article does highlight the lack of oversight and regulation in the herbal supplement business.

So, if you are taking supplements (or know people who do), please bring them to your next doctor’s visit. Many people forget to include over-the-counter medications on their med list, and unfortunately there are many interactions that exist between prescription drugs and these supplements.

 

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