Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Repost] Sleep Probelms and Complementary Approaches

From the US National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) – part of NIH

What’s the Bottom Line?

sleepdisorder_ThinkstockPhotos-526393059_square[1]

What do we know about the usefulness of complementary approaches for sleep disorders?

  • Relaxation techniques can be helpful for insomnia.
  • Melatonin supplements may be helpful for sleep problems caused by shift work or jet lag. Melatonin may also be helpful for people with insomnia, but its effect is small.
  • The evidence for other complementary approaches is either inconsistent or too limited to draw conclusions about whether they are helpful for sleep disorders.

What do we know about the safety of complementary approaches for sleep disorders?

  • Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe.
  • Melatonin appears to be relatively safe for short-term use, but its long-term safety has not been established.
  • There are serious safety concerns about kava products (which have been linked to severe liver damage) and L-tryptophan supplements (which may be associated with a potentially serious disorder called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome).
  • If you use a complementary approach for a sleep problem, tell your health care providers. They can do a better job caring for you if they know what you’re using.

What Are Sleep Disorders and How Important Are They?

There are more than 80 different sleep disorders. This fact sheet focuses on insomnia—difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders.

More information

Chronic, long-term sleep disorders affect millions of Americans each year. These disorders and the sleep deprivation they cause can interfere with work, driving, social activities, and overall quality of life, and can have serious health implications. Sleep disorders account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, plus indirect costs due to missed days of work, decreased productivity, and other factors.

To learn more about sleep disorders, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Web site.

Is It a Sleep Disorder or Not Enough Sleep?

Some people who feel tired during the day have a true sleep disorder, but for others, the real problem is not allowing enough time for sleep. Adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested, but the average adult sleeps for less than 7 hours a night.

More information

Sleep is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing, and is vital to good health and well-being. Shortchanging yourself on sleep slows your thinking and reaction time, makes you irritable, and increases your risk of injury. It may even decrease your resistance to infections, increase your risk of obesity, and increase your risk of heart disease. To learn more about healthy sleep and what happens when you don’t get enough sleep, visit NHLBI’s Your Guide to Healthy Sleep and What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?.

What the Science Says About Complementary Health Approaches and Insomnia

Research has produced promising results for some complementary health approaches for insomnia, such as relaxation techniques. However, evidence of effectiveness is still limited for most products and practices, and safety concerns have been raised about a few.

Mind and Body Practices

  • There is evidence that relaxation techniques can be effective in treating chronic insomnia.

    More information

    • Progressive relaxation may help people with insomnia and nighttime anxiety.
    • Music-assisted relaxation may be moderately beneficial in improving sleep quality in people with sleep problems, but the number of studies has been small.
    • Various forms of relaxation are sometimes combined with components of cognitive-behavioral therapy (such as sleep restriction and stimulus control), with good results.
    • Using relaxation techniques before bedtime can be part of a strategy to improve sleep habits that also includes other steps, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule; avoiding caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals, and strenuous exercise too close to bedtime; and sleeping in a quiet, cool, dark room.
    • Relaxation techniques are generally safe. However, rare side effects have been reported in people with serious physical or mental health conditions. If you have a serious underlying health problem, it would be a good idea to consult your health care provider before using relaxation techniques.
  • In a preliminary study, mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of meditation, was as effective as a prescription drug in a small group of people with insomnia.

    More information

    • Several other studies have also reported that mindfulness-based stress reduction improved sleep, but the people who participated in these studies had other health problems, such as cancer.
  • Preliminary studies in postmenopausal women and women with osteoarthritis suggest that yoga may be helpful for insomnia.
  • Some practitioners who treat insomnia have reported that hypnotherapy enhanced the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques in their patients, but very little rigorous research has been conducted on the use of hypnotherapy for insomnia.
  • A small 2012 study on massage therapy showed promising results for insomnia in postmenopausal women. However, conclusions cannot be reached on the basis of a single study.
  • Most of the studies that have evaluated acupuncture for insomnia have been of poor scientific quality. The current evidence is not rigorous enough to show whether acupuncture is helpful for insomnia.

For more information on mind and body practices.

Dietary Supplements

Melatonin and Related Supplements

  • Melatonin may help with jet lag and sleep problems related to shift work.
  • A 2013 evaluation of the results of 19 studies concluded that melatonin may help people with insomnia fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep better, but the effect of melatonin is small compared to that of other treatments for insomnia.

    More information

    • Studies of melatonin in children with sleep problems suggest that it may be helpful, both in generally healthy children and in those with conditions such as autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, both the number of studies and the number of children who participated in the studies are small, and all of the studies tested melatonin only for short periods of time.
    • Melatonin supplements appear to be relatively safe for short-term use, although the use of melatonin was linked to bad moods in elderly people (most of whom had dementia) in one study.
    • The long-term safety of melatonin supplements has not been established.
  • Dietary supplements containing substances that can be changed into melatonin in the body—L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)—have been researched as sleep aids.

    More information

    • Studies of L-tryptophan supplements as an insomnia treatment have had inconsistent results, and the effects of 5-HTP supplements on insomnia have not been established.
    • The use of L-tryptophan supplements may be linked to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a complex, potentially fatal disorder with multiple symptoms including severe muscle pain. It is uncertain whether the risk of EMS associated with L-tryptophan supplements is due to impurities in L-tryptophan preparations or to L-tryptophan itself.

Herbs

  • Although chamomile has traditionally been used for insomnia, often in the form of a tea, there is no conclusive evidence from clinical trials showing whether it is helpful. Some people, especially those who are allergic to ragweed or related plants, may have allergic reactions to chamomile.
  • Although kava is said to have sedative properties, very little research has been conducted on whether this herb is helpful for insomnia. More importantly, kava supplements have been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.
  • Clinical trials of valerian (another herb said to have sedative properties) have had inconsistent results, and its value for insomnia has not been demonstrated. Although few people have reported negative side effects from valerian, it is uncertain whether this herb is safe for long-term use.
  • Some “sleep formula” dietary supplements combine valerian with other herbs such as hops, lemon balm, passionflower, and kava or other ingredients such as melatonin and 5-HTP. There is little evidence on these preparations from studies in people.

For more information on dietary supplements.

Other Complementary Health Approaches

  • Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils from plants. It is uncertain whether aromatherapy is helpful for treating insomnia because little rigorous research has been done on this topic.
  • A 2010 systematic review concluded that current evidence does not demonstrate significant effects of homeopathic medicines for insomnia.

NCCIH Research on Sleep Disorders

NCCIH funds research on complementary health approaches for sleep disorders.

More information

Recent projects include studies on:

  • How mindfulness meditation training may affect the amount and quality of sleep
  • The effect of blue-white light on sleep disorders in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Whether acupuncture can help insomnia
  • How two forms of mindfulness-based therapy compare with behavior therapy for treating insomnia.

Could You Have Sleep Apnea?

Do you snore loudly? Does your bed partner say that you make gasping or snorting sounds during the night? Do you fight off sleepiness during the day?

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider. You might have sleep apnea—a condition in which sleep is disrupted because of pauses in breathing. For more information, visit the NHLBI Web site.

If You’re Considering Complementary Health Approaches for Sleep Problems

  • Talk to your health care providers. Tell them about the complementary health approach you are considering and ask any questions you may have. Because trouble sleeping can be an indication of a more serious condition, and because some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can contribute to sleep problems, it is important to discuss your sleep-related symptoms with your health care providers before trying any complementary health product or practice.
  • Be cautious about using any sleep product—prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, or homeopathic remedies. Find out about potential side effects and any risks from long-term use or combining products.
  • Keep in mind that “natural” does not always mean safe. For example, kava products can cause serious harm to the liver. Also, a manufacturer’s use of the term “standardized” (or “verified” or “certified”) does not necessarily guarantee product quality or consistency. Natural products can cause health problems if not used correctly. The health care providers you see about your sleep problems can advise you.
  • If you are pregnant, nursing a child, or considering giving a child a dietary supplement or other natural health product, it is especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider.
  • If you are considering a practitioner-provided complementary health practice, check with your insurer to see if the services will be covered, and ask a trusted source (such as your health care provider or a nearby hospital or medical school) to recommend a practitioner.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.:
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers):
1-866-464-3615

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

The NHLBI Health Information Center provides information to health professionals, patients, and the public about heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders and accepts orders for publications.

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

MedlinePlus

To provide resources that help answer health questions, MedlinePlus (a service of the National Library of Medicine) brings together authoritative information from the National Institutes of Health as well as other Government agencies and health-related organizations.

Information on sleep disorders

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Key References

All Other References

Top

Acknowledgments

NCCIH thanks Ronald Glick, M.D., University of Pittsburgh; Nalaka Gooneratne, M.D., University of Pennsylvania; Michael Twery, Ph.D., National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and D. Lee Alekel, Ph.D., and John (Jack) Killen, Jr., M.D., NCCIH, for their contributions to the 2014 update of this publication.

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Consumer Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Should You Take Dietary Supplements? (with links to resources)

Someone I know takes a multitude of supplements. As this article points out, it is a good idea to get objective medical advice on which supplements may be helpful.  This person started taking Vitamin D on the advice of a friend to stop back pain. It did work. And to to be honest, I was very skeptical. After a year, he told his doctor, and the doctor said that it probably did help. However, I do think that overall if folks ate right that supplements would be unnecessary.
Also, as the article points out, supplements cannot reverse medical conditions or replace other therapies.
Looking for more information on supplements? Check out the resources below, after the article summary.

A Look at Vitamins, Minerals, Botanicals and More

From the NIH August 2013 Newsletter

Illustration of a woman shopping for dietary supplements.

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

Read the entire article here

Resources

  • Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets (US National Institutes of Health)
    with links to decision making aids and consumer protection information
  • Dietary Supplement Label Database (US National Institutes of Health)
    ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements with information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions
  • Drugs, Supplements, and Herbal Information (US National Library of Medicine)
    browse dietary supplements and herbal remedies to learn about their effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions.
  • Longwood Herbal Task Force
    This site has in-depth monographs about herbal products and supplements written by health professionals and students. It provides clinical information summaries, patient fact sheets, and information about toxicity and interactions as well as relevant links. The task force is a cooperative effort of the staff and students from Children’s Hospital, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

 

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbal and Dietary Supplements Can Adversely Affect Prescribed Drugs, Says Extensive Review

Dietary supplements, such as the vitamin B sup...

Dietary supplements, such as the vitamin B supplement show above, are typically sold in pill form. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those of you who follow this blog know I continually harp on the necessity of sharing your use of complementary/alternative therapies as well as supplements with your health care providers.

From the 24 October 2012 article at ScienceDaily

A number of herbs and dietary supplements (HDS) can cause potentially harmful drug interactions, particularly among people receiving medication for problems with their central nervous or cardiovascular systems.

Those are the key findings of an extensive research review published in the November issue of IJCP, theInternational Journal of Clinical Practice.***

Researchers examined 54 review articles and 31 original studies. They found that the greatest problems were caused by interactions between prescribed drugs and HDS that included ingredients such as St John’s Wort, magnesium, calcium, iron or ginkgo.

“Consumer use of HDS has risen dramatically over the past two decades” says co-author Dr Hsiang-Wen Lin from the College of Pharmacy, China Medical School, Taiwan.

“In the USA, for example, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of patients with chronic diseases or cancer use them and that many patients take them at the same time as prescribed medication.

“Despite their widespread use, the potential risks associated with combining HDS with other medications, which include mild-to-severe heart problems, chest pain, abdominal pain and headache, are poorly understood.”

Key findings of the review included:

  • The literature covered 213 HDS entities and 509 prescribed medications, with 882 HDS-drug interactions described in terms of their mechanisms and severity.
  • Warfarin, insulin, aspirin digoxin and ticlopidine had the greatest number of reported interactions with HDS.
  • More than 42 per cent of the drug interactions were caused by the HDS altering the pharmacokinetics of the prescribed drugs — the process by which a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolised and eliminated by the body.
  • Just over 26 per cent of the total were described as major interactions.
  • Among the 152 identified contraindications, the most frequent involved the gastrointestinal system (16.4%), neurological system (14.5%) and andrenal ⁄ genitourinary diseases (12.5%).
  • Flaxseed, echinacea and yohimbe had the largest number of documented contraindications.

Related Resources

  • Evaluating Health Information (links at Health/Medical News and Resources by yours truly) 
  • Drugs, Supplements, and Herbal Information (MedlinePlus)Learn about your prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Includes side effects, dosage, special precautions, and more.Browse dietary supplements and herbal remedies to learn about their effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions.
  • Dietary Supplements Label Database (US National Library of Medicine) offers information about label ingredients in more than 6,000 selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to compare label ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the “structure/function” claims made by manufacturers. These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Companies may not market as dietary supplements any products that are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent …
  • Drugs and Supplements (sponsored by the Mayo Clinic)  Somewhat lengthy drug and over-the-counter medicationinformation with these sections: description, before using, proper use, precautions and side effects. From Micromedex, a trusted source of healthcare information for health professionals. Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

**Unfortunately this article is only available through paid subscription.
Ask for an available copy at your local public, academic, or medical library. (Many academic and medical libraries will help anyone who walks in, call ahead and ask for a reference librarian)

If your library does not have it, ask about Interlibrary loan. You may be able to get a copy from another library at little or no cost.

October 26, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

Traditional Chinese Medicines – Some Are Dangerous

Herbal supplements

Herbal supplements (Photo credit: Ano Lobb. @healthyrx)

As I’ve stated in previous postings here, choose your alternative/traditional/complementary medicines and therapies wisely.
Also, include herbs, supplements and traditional medicines in “medications” lists you share with your healthcare provider, pharmacist, or any healthcare professional you are consulting.  Many of these non-prescription items can interfere with any prescription medicine you are taking.
The Related Resources section below has links to trusted resources. However, they are not meant to replace advice from you health care provider.

From the 14 April 2012 article at Medical News Today

Australian border officials seized 15 TCMs (traditional Chinese medicines), which researchers from the Murdoch University analyzed to reveal the animal and plant composition by using new DNA sequencing technology. The results, published in PLoS Genetics, showed that some of the analyzed TCM samples contained potentially toxic plant ingredients, allergens, as well as traces of endangered animals.Leading researcher, Dr. Bunce, and a Murdoch University Australian Research Council Future Fellow commented:

“TCMs have a long cultural history, but today consumers need to be aware of the legal and health safety issues before adopting them as a treatment option.”

Related Resources

  • HerbMed® 
    an interactive, electronic herbal database – provides hyperlinked access to the scientific data underlying the use of herbs for health. It is an impartial, evidence-based information resource provided by the nonprofit Alternative Medicine Foundation, Inc. This public site provides access to 20 of the most popular herbs.
  • Herbs at a Glance (US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
    a series of fact sheets that provides basic information about specific herbs or botanicals—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information.
  • Herbal Links
    a compilation of  sites that the researchers at the University of Iowa Drug Information Service consider to be the highest quality and most useful to pharmacists for finding information concerning herbal medicines.
  • Longwood Herbal Task Force
    This site has in-depth monographs about herbal products and supplements written by health professionals and students. It provides clinical information summaries, patient fact sheets, and information about toxicity and interactions as well as relevant links. The task force is a cooperative effort of the staff and students from Children’s Hospital, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

  • Drug Information Portal (US National Library of Medicine)
    Search by drug.  Information includes some basic resources (as that at MedlinePlus) plus some more technical ones (as Toxilogical Data and Literature)

  • Dietary Supplements Labels Database Information about label ingredients in more than 6,000 selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to compare label ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the “structure/function” claims made by manufacturers.These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Companies may not market as dietary supplements any products that are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
  • NCCAM Director’s Page – It’s Time to Talk (March 13, 2012)
    • Time to Talk is a recently launched NCAAM series which encourages folks to discuss complementary health practices with their health care providersThe director notes the following
      • We know that nearly 40 percent of Americans use some kind of complementary health practice. But we also know that most patients do not proactively disclose use of complementary health practices to their health care providers. Likewise, most providers don’t initiate the discussion with their patients. As a physician, I strongly believe that patients and their health care providers need to talk openly about all of their health care practices to ensure safe, coordinated care. Talking not only allows fully integrated care, but it also minimizes risks of interactions with a patient’s conventional treatments.
    1. List the complementary health practices you use on your patient history form. When completing the patient history form, be sure to include everything you use—from acupuncture to zinc.  It’s important to give health care providers a full picture of what you do to manage your health.
    2. At each visit, be sure to tell your providers about what complementary health approaches you are using. Don’t forget to include over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as dietary and herbal supplements. Make a list in advance, or download and print this wallet card and take it with you. Some complementary health approaches can have an effect on conventional medicine, so your provider needs to know.
    3. If you are considering a new complementary health practice, ask questions. Ask your health care providers about its safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions with medications (both prescription and nonprescription).

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Popular herbal supplements may adversely affect chemotherapy treatment

Six common medicinal herbs in Tibet according ...

Image via Wikipedia

From the 17 Aug 2011 Eureka News Alert
 

Doctors urge cancer patients to discuss supplements with their doctors before beginning treatment

(Northwestern Memorial Hospital) Acai berry, cumin, herbal tea, turmeric and long-term use of garlic — all herbal supplements commonly believed to be beneficial to your health — may negatively impact chemotherapy treatment according to a new report…

Herbal supplements, defined as plant or plant parts used for therapeutic purposes, can interact with chemotherapy drugs through different mechanisms. Some herbs can interfere with the metabolism of the drugs, making them less effective while other herbs such as long-term use of garlic may increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. While culinary herbs used in small quantities for flavoring are generally safe, consuming large amounts for prolonged periods of time may have a negative effect on the body when going through chemotherapy.

Read the news release

 

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buyer Beware: Herbal Products Missing Key Safety Information

From the 8 August 2011 Science Daily article

Many herbal remedies available over-the-counter in pharmacies and health food shops are still lacking important information needed for safe use, according to University of Leeds researchers.

In April this year, a new EU law came into force regulating the sale of traditional herbal medicines, such as St John’s wort and Echinacea. These products must now contain clear information on possible side effects, how they could interact with other prescribed medicines and whether people with existing illnesses should take them or not. They are clearly marked with the THR logo showing they have ‘Traditional Herbal Registration’.

However, a number of popular herbal remedies, such as Asian ginseng and ginkgo, may not be covered by this law and could be missing key details on their safe use. Also, existing stocks on the shelves of shops and pharmacies, produced before the law came into force, can still be bought and will not have the new clear safety information….

Read entire Science Daily news article

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

AHRQ Releases Tool to Help Consumers Reduce Medication Errors

Photo of woman seated behind a glass of water, pills, and a box labeled with days of the week

From the press release

Three out of four Americans are not following their doctor’s advice when it comes to taking prescription medication, according to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin.  AHRQ and the National Council on Patient Information and Education have released a revised guide to help patients learn more about how to take medicines safely.  “Your Medicines: Be Smart. Be Safe” is a booklet that includes a detachable, wallet-sized card that can be personalized to help patients keep track of all medicines they are taking, including vitamins and herbal and other dietary supplements.  Available in English and Spanish, the guide includes questions that patients can ask their doctors about their medications.  Select to access a copy of the guide.  Print copies are available by sending an e-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.hhs.gov.

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbs at a Glance – Sage

Sage

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has published a new Herbs at a Glance fact sheet focusing on Sage.

 

A few herb related Web sites

Information about ingredients in more than three thousand selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to determine what ingredients are in specific brands and to compare ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the health benefits claimed by manufacturers. These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Check out the Help section for tips on how to browse and search this site.

 

This noncommercial consumer health and drug information site provides information about drugs and treatment options to be discussed with your primary health care provider or a pharmacist.  Information about over 1,500 drugs as well as common herbs and supplements. The check interactions tab (potential interactions between drugs)  and conditions/treatments area provide easy-to-read overviews. Information provided by Drawing pharmacy experts, licensed doctors of pharmacy, and physicians. From ExpressScripts.

Prescription and over-the-counter medication information contains answers to many general questions including topics as what a drug is used for, precautions, side effects, dietary instructions, and overdoses. From the American Society of Health System Pharmacists

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

Somewhat lengthy drug and over-the-counter medicationinformation with these sections: description, before using, proper use, precautions and side effects. From Micromedex, a trusted source of healthcare information for health professionals. 

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

  • Natural & Alternative Treatments**
    Contains detailed information on almost 200 different conditions and the conventional and natural treatments used to treat them, over 300 herbs and supplements, plus drug-herb and drug-supplement interactions for more than 90 drug categories.


February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbs at a Glance: A Quick Guide to Herbal Supplements

 

 

Herbs at a glance: a quick guide to herbal supplements is a 100 page indexed PDF document which gives the basics on the most common herbs in dietary supplements – historical uses, what they are used for now, scientific evidence on effectiveness, and potential side effects.

It is published by the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM).
The NCAAM Web site includes links to information under titles as

A few related Web sites

and a related news item…

From the December 16, 2010 Health Day news item U.S. Spending Millions to See if Herbs Truly Work

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) — People have been using herbal supplements for centuries to cure all manner of ills and improve their health. But for all the folk wisdom promoting the use of such plants as St. John’s wort and black cohosh, much about their effect on human health remains unknown.

But the federal government is spending millions of dollars to support research dedicated to separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to herbal supplements.

“A lot of these products are widely used by the consumer, and we don’t have evidence one way or the other whether they are safe and effective,” said Marguerite Klein, director of the Botanical Research Centers Program at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “We have a long way to go. It’s a big job.”

In August, the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Office of Dietary Supplements awarded about $37 million in grants to five interdisciplinary and collaborative dietary supplement centers across the nation. The grants were part of a decade-long initiative that so far has awarded more than $250 million toward research to look into the safety and efficacy of health products made from the stems, seeds, leaves, bark and flowers of plants.

Reliance on botanical supplements faded in the mid-20th century as doctors began to rely more and more on scientifically tested pharmaceutical drugs to treat their patients, said William Obermeyer, vice president of research for ConsumerLab.com, which tests supplement brands for quality.

But today, herbal remedies and supplements are coming back in a big way. People in the United States spent more than $5 billion on herbal and botanical dietary supplements in 2009, up 22 percent from a decade before, according to the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit research and education organization.

The increase has prompted some concern from doctors and health researchers. There are worries regarding the purity and consistency of supplements, which are not regulated as strictly as pharmaceutical drugs.

“One out of four of the dietary supplements we’ve quality-tested over the last 11 years failed,” Obermeyer said. The failure rate increases to 55 percent, he said, when considering botanical products alone.

Some products contain less than the promoted amount of the supplement in question — such as a 400-milligram capsule of echinacea containing just 250 milligrams of the herb. Other products are tainted by pesticides or heavy metals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned supplement makers on Dec. 15 that any company marketing tainted products could face criminal prosecution. The agency was specifically targeting products to promote weight loss, enhance sexual prowess or aid in body building, which it said were “masquerading as dietary supplements” and in some cases were laced with the same active ingredients as approved drugs or were close copies of those drugs or contained synthetic synthetic steroids that don’t qualify as dietary ingredients.

But even when someone takes a valid herbal supplement, it may not be as effective when taken as a pill or capsule rather than used in the manner of a folk remedy. For example, an herb normally ground into paste as part of a ceremony might lose its effectiveness if prepared using modern manufacturing methods, Obermeyer said.

“You move away from the traditional use out of convenience, and you may not have the same effect,” he said.

Researchers also are concerned that there just isn’t a lot of evidence to support the health benefits said to be gained from herbal supplements. People may be misusing them, which can lead to poor health and potential interactions with prescription drugs.

“Consumers often are taking them without telling their doctor, or taking them in lieu of going to the doctor,” Klein said……

 

 

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources, Medical and Health Research News, Professional Health Care Resources | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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