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Thread: herbal suppliments

  1. #1 herbal suppliments 
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    Dec 2013
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    Recently I have seen and read many articles that multi-vitamins are a total waste of money. Is the same true with herbal suppliments? I take milk thistle to keep my liver in good shape and, I know there are several herbal suppliments available for a variety of health maintanance reasons. Are these effective or another expensive urine placibo?

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  3. #2  
    Time Lord Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    Oct 2008
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    A large majority of the herbal supplements on the market have never actually been double blind tested, and the benefits claimed are based off word of mouth or very small sample sizes.

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  4. #3  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    The US FDA steers clear of herbal supplements other than, I think, declaring them to be food supplements.

    However, Germany has its BfArM (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte = Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices), their equivalent to the FDA, which respects "traditional medicinal products" for the sake of openmindedness regarding pharmacotherapy. The BfArm's Commission C advises the BfArM on so-called "anthroposophic" medicinal products, its Commission D advises on homeopathic medicinal products, and its Commission E advises on herbal medicinal products.
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  5. #4  
    who sees through things
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    Keeseguy, have you had your liver function tested before and after you started taking milk thistle? It would be interesting to see if the numbers change. Of course, if they do change, it could be for a completely unrelated reason, but still interesting.

    Herbal supplements can have medicinal effects. The issue is that they are not regulated the way prescription or OTC drugs are.

    Like any substance that acts as a medicine, they have side effects. Whether or not the side effects are worth the benefits depends on the situation. No different than prescription or OTC drugs.

    Vitamins are completely different. Vitamins are substances that healthy people normally have in their body just by virtue of eating normal foods. When you take vitamins, you aren't introducing a foreign substance in the body. You are adding more of something the body is normally supposed to have. It's the same when you take prescribed hormones, like insulin or thyroxine. You're not taking a foreign substance, you're adding something that is normally found in the body anyway.

    Most medicines and herbal supplements, though are foreign substances. Personally, I try to avoid them. An exception might be an antibiotic for a serious infection that my immune system can't handle on its own.

    You can go on Google scholar and look for research studies on the efficacy of different herbs. If you can find ones where you can read the whole article for free (try PLOS - Public Library of Science) you can check the research methods. There are tools on the web that allow you to calculate whether a sample size is relevant. There is a known problem with pharmaceutical companies not publishing studies that show inconclusive effects. There is also a known problem with pharmaceutical companies publishing their own studies and paying scientists from independent institutions to put their names on it, so there is no evidence of potential bias. It's certainly possible that herbal supplement companies do these things, too.
    Last edited by Alec Bing; January 1st, 2014 at 05:34 AM.
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  6. #5  
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    You can go on Google scholar and look for research studies on the efficacy of different herbs.
    Most importantly, once you've got hold of information that certain plant materials do have worthwhile effects on metabolism, you have to do a lot more work.

    You have to find out what the manufacturer of the preparation you're interested in does in the way of quality control of the plant materials it takes in as ingredients. Most often it's only one particular plant within a group of that has the particular effect or there's one that stands out from all the others as having the most potent/ beneficial effect. All of this is irrelevant if the manufacturer willingly accepts any old bundle of green stuff that looks enough like the desired plant to pass a casual inspection.

    Casual inspection isn't enough. Plant materials should be tested by chemical or other appropriate means to ensure that the resulting product will contain a guaranteed minimum of the wanted ingredients - many such plants should be harvested at certain stages of seasonal growth. Whether the particular plant needs picking before or after flowering or before/ after first frost or before or after new spring growth - just as most other fruits and vegetables and herbs and flavourings have specific or best target times for harvest.
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