Natural Remedies

The "Natural Remedies" industry in the United States is an annual multibillion dollar industry. Bookstores are full of books that claim to provide remedies for every possible malady and illness, and have even "invented" problems that possibly don't exist in reality (for example, see our writeup on candida). People would like to believe that if it is "natural" it is healthy. However, these same people would never think of eating the fruit of Pyracantha, tomato leaves, or any other plant they happen to come across. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides regulation requiring that natural (herbal) medications are sold as "dietary supplements", and they are unable to regulate their sale. As a result, there have been incidents of poisoning from herbal medications, some of which have resulted in death. In 2003, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Belcher died at the age of 23 after taking diet pills containing ephedrine, the active ingredient in ephedra. As a result, the FDA announced that "Dietary supplements that contain ephedra have been banned in the United States since April 2004. FDA banned the products after it determined that ephedra posed an unreasonable risk to those who used it".

Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. It seems that we have to wait for someone famous to die before action can be taken to prohibit marketing of dangerous substances that are labeled "herbal" or "natural" remedies. If you would like to see a list of potential dangers of such remedies, we suggest you visit uspharmacist.com.

The purpose of this series is different - we will examine the efficacy of a few herbal remedies that have been in wide use, and have been studied meticulously regarding their safety and efficacy in well-controlled medical studies. Apriori, one might think that if certain remedies have been used for long periods, they may be expected to be effective. We all hope to find great, safe remedies for every illness we encounter. Disappointingly, as we will show in the following, the record of such remedies is poor.

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Last Modification - March 4, 2006