CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions:
Therapies for Specific Conditions, complementary and alternative treatments for
specific conditions, organized by particular illness or ailment, are
information is not intended to replace the medical care of a physician or other
licensed clinicians. All persons suffering from any of the following conditions
should consult their physicians and licensed practitioners.
detailed description of specific herbal indications, dosages, forms of
preparation, contraindications, and cautions and warnings is given under the
section for the condition most commonly treated with that herb.
- Keep all conventional and CAM medications
and supplements out of the reach of children.
- If you are planning a pregnancy, are
pregnant, or are breast feeding, you should talk with your doctor before taking
any supplements or herbs.
- Among the supplements currently on the
market are a number of controversial substances whose health benefits have not
been definitively proven by randomized clinical trials (RCTs).
- Not all CAM interventions are harmless.
Some are dangerous when used inappropriately or to excess. Consumers should be
cautious when selecting herbs. Since the herb industry is essentially
unregulated, because the practice of botanical medicine is not formalized, and
due to the fact that herbal medicine is not generally taught in the vast
majority of medical and pharmacy schools, consumers have essentially been left
to their own devices in determining how they will use botanical products. Some
herbs themselves also have potentially harmful side effects, and should not be
used without an understanding of the full range of their biological activity,
and the advice of a physician.
- Some traditional Chinese medicine and
Ayurvedic herbal preparations manufactured by companies in Asia are currently
being imported into the United States. There is a lack of quality control in
the manufacture of these products, resulting in questionable standards of
purity, sanitation, and standardization. Many herbal compounds from China and
India may be contaminated with biological materials, as well as with heavy
metals, such as arsenic, mercury, or lead. However, some common Chinese and
Ayurvedic preparations are now being produced by U.S. companies, and these are
- Herbal labels may be inaccurate. A
finding published in the September 2, 1998, issue of the Los Angeles Times tested ten common over-the-counter (OTC)
products labeled as St. John's wort. Out of the ten products, seven contained
between 75 percent and 135 percent of the labeled hypericin and three contained
no more than half of the amount stated on the label. Although this focused on
St. John's wort, there is a similar unpublished study of wide variation in
ginseng content, and it is likely that many other herbs and supplements may be
inadequately or even inaccurately labeled.
- It is important to underscore that there
are no long-term safety or efficacy studies on herbal preparations. Actually,
there are also too few such studies on conventional pharmaceuticals.
- Grapefruit is a common food that
increases the potency of many conventional medications, such as calcium channel
blockers for high blood pressure, angina or chest pain, and arrhythmias; also
Seldane, withdrawn from the market but formerly used for allergic rhinitis; and
the benzodiazapenes commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness.
Interaction effects of grapefruit or other common foods with herbs are not
known. It would be prudent to avoid grapefruit while using herbs appropriate to
any of the foregoing conditions.
- All herbal dosages and recommendations
are based upon studies with adults. Safety and efficacy with children is
- Adults over sixty-five may have
diminished liver or renal function and need to be particularly concerned about
herbal or supplement excess and/or toxicity. Liver function assessments should
be monitored periodically while taking herbals, supplements, as well as many
- Five excellent, ongoing sources for both
public and professional information on alternative medicine are Alternative
Medicine Alert from
American Health Consultant at (800) 688-2421; Alternative Medicine Advisor from Rebus Publishers (publishers of the
Berkeley Wellness Letter and the Johns Hopkins Medical Letter) at (877)
212-1933; Complementary Medicine for the Physician from Churchill Livingstone Publishers; The
Integrative Medicine Consult from Intergrative Medicine Communications at (617) 641-2300; and Dr.
Andrew Weil's Self Healing
from Thorne Communications at (617) 926-0200. For reliable information on
herbals, the best source is the American Botanical Council, which published the
German Commission E Monographs, in Austin, Texas, at (512) 926-4900; the Encyclopedia of
Natural Medicine by Dr.
Michael Murray and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno; and most important, the new PDR for
Herbal Medicines from
Physician's Desk Reference Publishers in Des Moines, Iowa. Finally, the best
source of updates on insurance coverage, new clinics, and business
opportunities is The Integrator, published by John Weeks in Seattle, Washington.
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BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: WHAT WORKS? WHAT DOES NOT? by Dr. Kenneth R.
Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier,
Reprinted by permission of Simon &
Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.
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