A recent research article re-ignited a long running discussion about the safety and quality of herbal products. The problem is that many supplements on the market are created by marketing companies looking to make money, rather than companies that are trying to provide quality medicines that adhere to proper herbal medical concepts.
The most recent research article demonstrated that many herbal supplements did not contain what was claimed on the label. The herbal supplement industry was quick to point out the flaws of the study. The study authors and the herbal products industry have valid points. Over the counter herbal supplements are often poorly made and do not provide enough value to the consumer. Also researchers are often treating herbal products as if they are pharmaceutical products, which they are not. Herbs by their nature are natural materials that have natural variation and are not processed in the same way as pharmaceutical drugs.
The real problem is that consumers are getting their health and supplement information from the marketing companies that produce these supplements. There is a lot of hype and marketing information taking the place of medical information. The consumer should be treating herbal supplements the same way they treat any other medicine, and unfortunately they are not. The best advice is to get your health information from someone who has the qualifications to diagnose and treat your situation. Medical professionals work with supplement manufacturers that they trust. Herbs can have powerful medicinal affect if used properly. The problem is that many people are not getting the quality advice they need to use herbal medicines appropriately.
The basic advice for all consumers who wish to use herbs as medicine;
- Talk to a medical professional with training and certification in herbal medicine. There are many types of herbalists. Do your research on Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine, Ayurvedic, naturopathic and the American Herbalist Guild.
- Keep your primary care physician informed about herbal use in regards to medical conditions
- Do not mix herbs and medications without professional advice
- Do not substitute herbs for prescribed medication
- Use herbal medicines only as long as necessary to help the body regain balance of function
- Make sure your herbal medicines are produced by GMP certified producers
- Avoid mixed herbal and vitamin combinations
Follow the advice of the FDA in regards to spotting herbal scams. Be suspicious of any product that;
- Promises to help you lose weight, increase sexual performance, improve memory, or cure a serious chronic or life threatening disease.
- Promises to treat just about every chronic condition
- Relies only on testimonials to prove efficacy
- Promises a quick fix to the medical problem
- Uses the claim of “ all natural” as a marketing pitch
- Claims to be a “miracle cure”
- Claims that there is a conspiracy against the product or treatment
Hopefully the current research controversy will move the researchers to do better research and move the herbal products industry to better police themselves when it comes to producing quality medicines for the benefit of the consumer and the reputation of herbal medicine in general.