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, 75 (2-3), 141-64

Should We Be Concerned About Herbal Remedies


Should We Be Concerned About Herbal Remedies

M Elvin-Lewis. J Ethnopharmacol.


During the latter part of this century the practice of herbalism has become mainstream throughout the world. This is due in part to the recognition of the value of traditional medical systems, particularly of Asian origin, and the identification of medicinal plants from indigenous pharmacopeias that have been shown to have significant healing power, either in their natural state or as the source of new pharmaceuticals. Generally these formulations are considered moderate in efficacy and thus less toxic than most pharmaceutical agents. In the Western world, in particular, the developing concept that 'natural' is better than 'chemical' or 'synthetic' has led to the evolution of Neo-Western herbalism that is the basis of an ever expanding industry. In the US, often guised as food, or food supplements, known as nutriceuticals, these formulations are readily available for those that wish to self-medicate. Within this system, in particular, are plants that lack ethnomedical verification of efficacy or safety. Unfortunately there is no universal regulatory system in place that insures that any of these plant remedies are what they say they are, do what is claimed, or most importantly are safe. Data will be presented in this context, outlining how adulteration, inappropriate formulation, or lack of understanding of plant and drug interactions have led to adverse reactions that are sometimes life-threatening or lethal.

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