Title

Herbal ‘Health’ Products: What Family Physicians Need to Know

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-1998

Abstract

Patients who self-medicate with herbs for preventive and therapeutic purposes may assume that these products are safe because they are “natural,” but some products cause adverse effects or have the potential to interact with prescription medications. The United States lacks a regulatory system for herbal products. Although only limited research on herbs has been published, St John's wort shows promise as a treatment for depression. Ginkgo biloba extract is possibly effective for cerebrovascular insufficiency and dementia. Feverfew is used extensively in Canada for migraine prophylaxis but needs more rigorous study. Ephedrine has been regulated by many states because its misuse has been associated with several deaths. Echinacea is being tried as an agent for immune stimulation, and garlic is under study for cholesterol-lowering properties, but both require more study. Physicians should educate themselves and their patients about the efficacy and adverse interactions of herbal agents and the limitations of our present knowledge of them.