Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Herbal medicine: 6 tips to consider when talking to your patients

Pictures of herb samples from categories of Ch...

Pictures of herb samples from categories of Chinese Herbs Substances for Topical Application (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 4 July 2013 article at KevinMD.com

 

 | MEDS | JULY 4, 2013

Herbal medicines make most doctors cringe, laugh, or want to put blinders on and pretend they don’t exist. This is understandable. While allopathic medical education hammers pharmaceutical formulas and mechanisms of action into our brains, we learn little-to-nothing about herbs in medical school. Quite the opposite – we are most often told to uniformly discourage our patients from taking herbs out of concern for safety; a conversation stopper with little room for nuance.

In Western medicine, at best, herbs and plants are recognized for their role as an anchor ingredient in many pharmaceutical drugs. At worst, herbs are shunned for being unstudied and unregulated – fraught with reports of contamination, false-advertising and misuse by patients. This is thanks in large part to the Dietary Supplement Act of 1994, which allowed their sale without prescription.

Yet at least 15 million Americans say they take some form of herbal medication, and the dietary supplement market grosses $28 billion dollars annually. In other words, chances are that some of your patients are taking herbs, whether you know it or not.

First, some context: Not all herbs are restricted to mysterious Internet sites or eight hour energy drinks. Far from it. Tumeric root, a staple in Indian food, is a great example of an herbal medicine whose active ingredient, curcumin, has been proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, adaptogenic, and immunomodulatory properties. Not only has it been widely studied and used, but it also has basically no side-effects.

Ginger, cinnamon, not to mention others less likely to show up in your salad – milk thistle, for example – all have double-blind studies backing their claims. Indeed, many herbs can be a great sources of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and alkaloids, and have properties ranging from the anti-microbial to the anxiolytic. These anti-inflammatory properties can lend them a supportive role in the continuum of health and illness, helping nourish the body properly so it can do what it was designed to do – heal from and resist disease.

So how do you, as a Western doctor, with a responsibility to do no harm, approach herbs intelligently? The following is a pathway for addressing the use of herbal medicine in your practice even if you would never recommend an herb yourself.

1. Do your research. I find that the most easy-to-use and comprehensive guides are the online databases The Natural Standard, and The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, as well as the textbook, The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. For a quick reference, the National Institutes of Health also offers the online“Herbs At A Glance,” patient-focused resource with information on the most common Western herbs. Finally, the American Journal of Cardiology published two helpful lists in 2010 summarizing common herb-drug interactions and herbs to avoid in patients with cardiovascular diseases. The databases and textbook in particular offer a digestible run-down of efficacy, contraindications, side effects, drug interactions, and pregnancy classification.

 

Read the entire article here

Related Resources

 

 

July 24, 2013 - Posted by | health care | , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: