The West’s medicine is falling behind.
It’s time to start making changes, especially as it comes to western herbal medicine.
The West should embrace Western herbal medicine, not abandon it, says Dr. Paul C. F. Chastain, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Western Medicine.
“Western herbal medicine is very much alive and well,” he says.
It is a powerful source of nutrition, for instance, and the traditional use of it in the treatment of diabetes, arthritis and cancer has been a boon for the health care industry.
“It’s a source of hope for people,” says F. Scott Houser, a co-founder of the American Association of Poison Control Centers and a professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
“There are people who are really struggling with their health and they need to be able to rely on that,” he adds.
Fears over health and safety As much as the science behind herbal remedies is still in its infancy, there is a fear that the products are unsafe, especially when it comes time to use them.
“We’re not going to be using these products if they’re not safe,” says Housers.
“They’re not there to help people live longer.”
Fears about the potential risks of taking Western herbal medicines also have not abated, even as more studies are being done.
One study published in April found that patients who took one of the popular herbal products, ginseng, had a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart attacks and strokes than those who did not take the herbal products.
In a study published last year in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that taking ginsenosides, an ingredient in Western herbal remedies that can slow the rate of cell death in cancer cells, could also increase the risk of cancer.
That finding, and a study that followed nearly 1,000 people who took ginsensides over the course of several years, led to the conclusion that there was a need for more research to determine the long-term effects of these products.
It should also be noted that most of the studies on the products involved people taking them as a supplement and not as a medication.
While some of the supplements do have some safety concerns, they were never tested for safety in humans, says Fenton, a member of an advisory panel for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The panel recommends that companies include information about the ingredients in their products on the label and in the package.
But he says that many Western herbal products are not regulated by the FDA.
“I think we’re going to see a lot more Western products being marketed as medicines and as supplements,” says Dr.
“And we’re not seeing that.” “
The pharmaceutical companies have been very careful to avoid putting products in the hands of people with cancer and their families, because they don’t want people to be harmed,” he continues.
“And we’re not seeing that.”
While there is no set standard for the safety of a Western herbal product, it is important to note that the ingredients are different in each product, says Chastains co-author, Dr. Robert E. Nitschke.
For instance, gin-sensitizing agents can be found in many traditional Chinese and Indian medicines, which could lead to allergic reactions and even death.
Nichtinger points out that traditional medicine contains many different types of herbs and that some are less toxic than others.
“Some of the most powerful herbs are the ones that we find in traditional Chinese medicine,” he explains.
“But we don’t know how much of those ingredients are in the Western herbal supplements we’re seeing marketed.”
The FDA will continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of Western herbal therapies and should soon release a final rule for the products.
The final rule is expected in mid-November.