Monday, May 23, 2005

The twenty most popular herbal medicines

Skeptics Circle
This is a slide show from a course given at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, with the twenty most popular herbal medicines.

See also Prof. Ralph Blomster's warning on Herbal toxicities and side effects.

Professor Blomster tells us what an herb is "used for" but that does not tell us what it is "useful for".

If you read the notes for St. John's Wort: used as a standardized extract, three times a day, with meals for a minimum of four to six weeks you will be given the impression that it is a prescription. Then how much of what is being prescribed? "Standardized extract" implies that the same amounts of active ingredients are in the same number of caps each and every time.

He also warns against "large doses" of ephedra, but does not say what a large dose is, and when he mentions the bad effects of large doses of ephedra, he completes the list with "etc", leaving out the effect that finally got ephedra banned: death.

Almost nobody common people has any idea what homeopathy really is, so the simplest question about "herbal medicine", homeopathy and other popular things must be repeated over and over again. Answering what homeopathy really is, once in a while someone will answer "natural" or "herbal" and maybe have a vague idea that it is "very diluted herbs" and "like a vaccine, but safe". Ask someone the most basic questions about how true homeopathic remedies "work" (i.e. cannot work) they will say phrases like "I have seen it work", and so on.

That said, I'm surprised chocolate isn't on the list since I use this drug regularly.

Chemicals in chocolate (caffeine, phenylethylamine, or theobromine)
Used as a stimulant.
Should not be overdosed.
Most common side effect is high amounts of sugar and fat and extra calories or fat.

And the absolutely most popular herbs like tea and coffee - aren't listed either.

Coffee and tea
Caffeine is a substance that exists naturally in certain plants.
Used as a stimulant and for pleasure.
Possible side effects are (if excessive caffeine intake) fast heart rate, diuresis (excessive urination), nausea and vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, depression, tremors, and difficulty sleeping.

More herbs to be added?

See who links to your web site.