| Friday, March 28, 2008
| DO HERBAL MEDICINE WORK?
|YEARS AGO, I WITNESSED AN OPEN HEART OPERATION at the University of shanghai in China. The surgeons using acupuncture as the only "anesthesia". This experience left me with an open mind about the possibilities of what was then called "alternative medicine".
Natural remedies have been used for centuries. In fact, many of the prescription drugs we take are plant based. Some 5 billion people worldwide rely solely on traditional plant based treatments to heal what ails them, and more than half of Americans take dietary supplements, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Unfortunately, the FDA does not supervise the manufacture or importation of herbal remedies. The pill you take may not contain what's listed on the label, and there is a risk of contamination. Until recently, claims about the effectiveness of supplements had not been tested.
The good news is that large and well-designated trials of many natural therapies are being conducted to determine their effectiveness. Here is what we know so far.
GINSENG. This popular herb has long been used to boost energy, increase sex drive, prolong lie and improve appetite. However, most of the research supporting its effectiveness was performed on animals. Try it if you like, but don't take ginseng if you have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or are taking an anticoagulant.
GARLIC. Marketed as a pill, capsule or powder, garlic supplements are said to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and to have antibiotic properties. I believe that it does these things -- but not well enough to be sued as the sole treatment for high cholesterol, hypertension or infection. Don't take it if you also are taking aspirin or anticoagulants.
ECHINACEA. Millions of Americans take echinacea because they believe it boosts immunity and helps prevent the common cold. Studies have shown conflicting results, possibly due to variation in the contents of the products tested. It seems that one particular species, Echinacea purpurea, works best. There's no harm in trying it unless you are allergic to ragweed, have an autoimmune disorder or are taking drugs that can hurt the liver.
CHAMOMILE. This herb does have some antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. I recommend chamomile to improve sleep, settle the stomach, soothe a sore throat and relieve bronchial congestion. Some of my patients tell me that it eases the pain of arthritis and menstrual cramps and that a chamomile batch can reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids. Avoid it if you are taking an anticoagulant, are allergic to daisies or are pregnant.
ST. JOHN' S WORT. This herb acts on receptors in the brain to improve mild depression. However, it interacts poorly with some medications and may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. If you're not taking other medication and your depression is mild, it's OK to try it.
GINKGO BILOBA. Evidence suggests that gingko biloba has a positive effect on the vascular system, probably because it contains flavonoids and organic acids and helps to eliminate free radicals. It has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces the tendency to form blood clots. Some doctors recommend it to boost memory, promote circulation to the legs or ease cognitive impairment due to decreased blood flow to the brain. It's well tolerated at prescribed levels, but don't take it if you also are taking an anticoagulant.
VALERIAN. Valerian has been around for thousands of years and was prescribed by Hippocrates to help his patients relax and sleep. It is probably the most widely used sedative in Europe, where preparations are available for children as well as adults. It is safe, but don't take it for longer than a few weeks.
GINGER. The root is a safe and effective antinauseant, but claims that it benefits the hearts, intestinal tract or lungs are unproven.
SAW PALMETTO. Millions of men worldwide use saw palmetto to treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate. Although it is safe and has few side effects, a recent study in the New England of Medicine found it to be no more effective than a placebo.
HAWTHORN. Leaves and flowers of this tree have been used to treat heart disease since the first century. The NIH has found that it strengthens the heart and may be used to treat mild heart failure. Be sure to let your doctor know if you decide to try it.
BLACK COHOSH. Clinical trials to determine whether black cohosh relieves menopausal symptoms have yielded conflicting results. Some women do experience benefits, and it appears to be safe. But don't use it for more than six months, and don't take it if you have a history of estrogen-dependent tumors.
FEVERFEW. Taken regularly, this herb may prevent (not treat) migraines. Since preparations vary, be sure to find one with at least 0.2 percent parthenolide, the anti-imflmmatory compound believed to make it work.
Feverfew has not serious side effects, but don't ake it if you're pregnant.
These are just a few of the many herbal products available on the market. Remember: Even though they are natural, supplements can interact with other herbs and prescription drugs. If you decide to try one, consult with your doctor first.
SOURCE: (PARADEMAG by: Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld/visit PARADE.COM)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 4:20 PM