Sales of herbal dietary supplements have skyrocketed by 100 percent in the United States during the last 10 years, but most people don't consider evidence-based indications before using them, according to a University of Iowa study published in this month's Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Two-thirds of people who use herbs don't do so in accordance with scientific guidelines, according to the article. Meanwhile, sales of herbal supplements reached $18.8 billion in 2003, up 100 percent from $8.8 billion in 1994. Those sales are subject to minimal federal regulations.
Physicians are concerned, says Aditya Bardia, M.D., lead author of the study and a resident in the Department of Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic, because herbal supplements can have adverse side effects and interact negatively with therapeutic drugs.
If you are in the UK or Europe and are thinking something along the lines of "those silly Americans" then perhaps you should be aware that we "enjoy" an even worse situation on this side of the pond.
For a herbal medicine to be allowed on the register, its maker must show that it is safe and manufactured to a sufficiently high standard. The maker must also provide proof, not of efficacy, but that the substance has been used in traditional medicine for many years.
The MHRA argues that without this new system herbal products would be completely unregulated, but others say the decision is a cop-out, opening the door to remedies of no proven worth. Conventional medicines have to be thoroughly tested in clinical trials to prove that they work.
"It's shameless," says David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London. "Medicines work or don't work, and they should be labelled accordingly," he says.
From an earlier post of mine you can see here.