Herbal Supplements: Are They “Natural” or Dangerous?

Would you go down to your local drugstore and buy a bottle of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound to treat yourasthma or menstrual cramps? How about Old Dr. Kaufmann’s Great Sulphur Bitters for your liver problems?

But you might buy a bottle of black cohosh or milk thistle, in modern packaging with carefully worded potency and purity notices. Nevermind that they’re essentially the same stuff that was in those old, antiquated potions.

In 1994, Congress passed the “Snake Oil Protection Act” (really called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act); the main goal of this legislation was to protect the burgeoning herbal medicine and supplement industry from regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

When Congress “protects” a medical industry, someone takes the fall. Congress has failed to protect YOU, the health consumer.

These “natural” remedies do not have to meet safety and efficacy standards.  They don’t have to do the studies and rigorous testing to prove that they won’t kill you while actually doing anything good for you. They don’t even have to tell you what the active ingredients really are!

The supplement industry is now a $28 billion industry. And with that growth have grown the numbers of consumers injured by misidentified or not-identified pharmaceuticals in those products, interaction with other medications, and side effects–none of which have to be reported to anyone.

While there is evidence that some of these natural remedies do actually do what is claimed, most have no credible, non-industry financed, placebo controlled studies to prove it. The ones that do work are because they contain, in botanical form, the same drug your doctor can prescribe in pure form.

Which brings up the obvious question: in this age of bottled, filtered WATER, why would people buy adulterated, diluted MEDICINE?

Don’t be fooled. Herbal supplements are often not safe, and rarely effective. The only winners are the peddlers, who have traded in their horse-cart shows for flashy, modern labeling.

What do we call alternative medicine that has been proven to be safe and effective?

Medicine.

 

 

Further reading:

Science Based Medicine