Tag: herbal medicine

Kratom: another dangerous “natural” remedy

Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is a tropical tree from Southeast Asia whose leaves are traditionally chewed or prepared as a powder. Native populations chew the leaves to reduce fatigue when doing manual labor, such as working on rubber plantations. It is also used in cultural performances and consumed as a drink prepared from kratom powder. When the Second World War caused an increase...

/ August 4, 2016

About Herbs: an app to avoid

Medicine has an intellectual hierarchy. Supposedly the best and the brightest are in the academic medical centers and are the thought leaders in their field. Those of us lower in the hierarchy are well aware of some of the warts present on our betters, but I would expect those at the top would adhere to the highest intellectual and ethical standards. People...

/ June 24, 2016

“Safe” dietary supplements can land you in the emergency room

If there’s one thing I’ve been consistent about, it’s that, however ridiculous all the other woo I routinely discuss here is—homeopathy, reiki, reflexology, I’m talking to you and your friends—herbal medicine and supplements might have value because they might have a physiological effect that is beneficial in treating or preventing disease. Of course, if that’s the case, it’s because the herb or...

/ October 18, 2015

Supplements are the Wild West of health. One Attorney General is out to change that.

Bold moves from the New York State attorney general’s (AG) office are shaking up the supplement industry. In February, the AG accused four retailers (GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens) of selling supplements that failed to contain their labelled ingredients. Using a testing method called “DNA barcoding“, the AG’s office concluded that few of the products it tested actually contained the labelled ingredient,...

/ April 9, 2015
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Searching for the supplement in your supplement

While the supplement market continues to grow, it's becoming harder to identify products that are truly safe and effective. We need better regulation and product quality to ensure there's a market where consumers can purchase supplements with confidence and use them safely.

/ February 12, 2015

Traditional Chinese herbalism at the Cleveland Clinic? What happened to science-based medicine?

I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned my connection with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF). I probably have, but just don’t remember it. Long-time readers might recall that I did my general surgery training at Case Western Reserve University at University Hospitals of Cleveland. Indeed, I did my PhD there as well in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Up the road...

/ April 26, 2014

Herbal Center at Cleveland Clinic

The infiltration of pseudoscience and simply bad medicine into mainstream medicine continues. Hospitals are an easy breech point because they are run by administrators who may have more talent and interest in marketing than in science. Many hospitals in my area, for example, proudly display their “integrative” centers, offering nutrition advice and massage alongside more dubious offerings, such as reflexology and reiki....

/ April 23, 2014
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Herbal Medicine and Aristolochic Acid Nephropathy

Herbs are little more than dirty drugs, with uncertain dosing, potency, and often-unrecognized side effects. Aristolochic acid, which is present in the Aristolochia genus of plants often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for many uses. Used in the West as a weight loss aid, Aristolochia is a case study in the unrecognized dangers of herbal medicine; it is a powerful nephrotoxin, and...

/ April 11, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

A correspondent asked me to review the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. She wrote “I’m very worried about this book.” She had just seen an NPR article about the book and was alarmed because it provided an excerpt from the book recommending that patients with morning sickness “Try Sea-Bands” and “Go CAM Crazy.” She knew from...

/ August 9, 2011

Herbal Remedies, Street Drugs, and Pharmacology

David Kroll’s recent article on thunder god vine is a great example of what can be learned by using science to study plants identified by herbalists as therapeutic. The herbalists’ arsenal can be a rich source of potential knowledge. But Kroll’s article is also a reminder that blindly trusting herbalists’ recommendations for treatment can be risky. Herbal medicine has always fascinated me....

/ March 22, 2011