Problems with herbal remedies.

A skeptical look at medical practices
User avatar
Lance Kennedy
Has More Than 9K Posts
Posts: 9884
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:20 pm
Custom Title: Super Skeptic
Location: Paradise, New Zealand

Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Lance Kennedy » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:12 pm

http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0301/p1239.html

Many people who use herbel 'remedies' believe they are safe because they are "natural". Not so.

For example : Gingko, taken to boost memory, is linked to hemorrhages. Ginseng, taken to boost energy, is linked to hypoglycemia. St. John's Wort, taken for mild depression, is the worst of the lot, and interferes with many other medications, including the oral contraceptive, and warfarin (which is a life saver, in stopping blood clots).

It has been found that 20% of all drug induced liver damage is caused by herbal remedies.

To make things worse, because herbal remedies are not covered by strong regulations (like pharmaceutical drugs), they are often adulterated with real drugs without anyone knowing. They have been found with antibiotics, antihistamines, and steroids. The herbal remedy maker has an obvious reason for doing this, since the herb is probably not very effective, and those additives make it much more effective. But the problem is that the additives, being unannounced, may cause unexpected problems. There are even male problem herbal remedies with viagra added, which is seriously dishonest. Other herbal remedies have been found with toxins added, such as heavy metals, and even toad venom.

Since doctors frequently have no idea what herbal remedies their patients are taking, they cannot give good advice, and may prescribe incompatible pharmaceutical remedies.

Is it not time for more rigorous regulations governing non pharmaceutical approaches to health?

User avatar
Poodle
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8119
Joined: Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:12 pm
Custom Title: Regular sleeper
Location: NE corner of my living room

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Poodle » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:01 pm

It's certainly time for more rigorous labelling regulations, at least, apparently, in NZ. In the UK, this was put into effect a few years ago now. It seemed common sense to me, but I was very surprised at the number of 'herbalists' who closed their businesses merely because they were being constrained to state EVERY ingredient contained in their preparations and were no longer allowed to claim efficacy unless there was evidence to back that claim up. We still have responsible herbalists in business, though, and I can see nothing wrong with that as long as ridiculous claims are not made (already covered by Trades Description and Sale of Goods legislation). Some herbal remedies have known active ingredients with known therapeutic effects and, so long as their efficacy is not over stated, I see no good reason to hand the whole field over to 'Big Pharma'.

User avatar
scrmbldggs
Has No Life
Posts: 19641
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Custom Title: something
Location: sees Maria Frigoris from its house!

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby scrmbldggs » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:53 am

Poodle wrote:...Some herbal remedies have known active ingredients with known therapeutic effects and, so long as their efficacy is not over stated, I see no good reason to hand the whole field over to 'Big Pharma'.

And some have known active ingredients with known detrimental effects and those should be stated. Which I have seen done in some apparently reputable publications. And yesh, 'Big Pharma' should stay out of it beyond assuring the quality of any OTCs it might be offering.
Hi, Io the lurker.

User avatar
Lance Kennedy
Has More Than 9K Posts
Posts: 9884
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:20 pm
Custom Title: Super Skeptic
Location: Paradise, New Zealand

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:42 am

As I mentioned in another thread, a few years ago there was an article in Scientific American about herbal remedies. The authors estimated that only 1 in 100 such remedies actually proved to have any therapeutic benefit whatever when tested scientifically. Most herbal remedies are just concoctions of plant materials which seemed to someone to 'be a good idea.'

Of course, there are thousands of herbal remedies, which leaves a fair number that are, to some extent, useful. Those few are the basis for a number of modern drugs. I totally and completely disagree with the idea that Big Pharma should stay out of it, because those few effective remedies can be improved dramatically with the proper research and development. For example, a properly formulated drug will have the same amount of active ingredient in every dose. In a herbal remedy, it can vary by up to 200 fold from one dose to the next. That is, the dose might be close to lethally toxic, or totally ineffective, and the difference is sheer blind luck.

bobbo_the_Pragmatist
True Skeptic
Posts: 10228
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:39 am

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:49 am

1 in a 100 is a very rich vein to mine. Much better than blindly testing whatever they can get their hands on. So flaky a method...reason says something was left out of such reviews?

Why don't sharks get cancer? Seems they ought to investigate the {!#%@} out of that. I assume its the absence of some dna sequence, or maybe the presence of one? Should be easy to check that out. Hopefully, its not diet. I hate rotten whale blubber.
Real Name: bobbo the existential pragmatic evangelical anti-theist and Class Warrior.
Asking: What is the most good for the most people?
Sample Issue: Should the Feds provide all babies with free diapers?

User avatar
scrmbldggs
Has No Life
Posts: 19641
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Custom Title: something
Location: sees Maria Frigoris from its house!

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby scrmbldggs » Tue Mar 07, 2017 2:02 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:...I totally and completely disagree with the idea that Big Pharma should stay out of it, because those few effective remedies can be improved dramatically with the proper research and development. For example, a properly formulated drug will have the same amount of active ingredient in every dose. In a herbal remedy, it can vary by up to 200 fold from one dose to the next. That is, the dose might be close to lethally toxic, or totally ineffective, and the difference is sheer blind luck.

That's where my bit with the quality control went. But a) some research has been done and not by 'Big Pharma', and b) my concern there also is the price, and worse, possible full control over the possible end product (unless that extends only to their developed/isolated concoction. Which itself isn't always the best way to go, since it seems various components of various plants, etc. work together beneficially. And sometimes not, hehe.)

It would be a shame if growing and enjoying yer Chamomile or Peppermint tea would suddenly become illegal...
Hi, Io the lurker.

User avatar
scrmbldggs
Has No Life
Posts: 19641
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Custom Title: something
Location: sees Maria Frigoris from its house!

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby scrmbldggs » Tue Mar 07, 2017 2:17 am

But I guess we both are on the same track about proper herbalism - it's chemistry and should be treated accordingly if sold to the masses in whichever way...
Hi, Io the lurker.

User avatar
Lance Kennedy
Has More Than 9K Posts
Posts: 9884
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:20 pm
Custom Title: Super Skeptic
Location: Paradise, New Zealand

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:41 am

Scrambledone.

Artemisinin is a drug derived from a Chinese shrub. It is now made to a high quality standard by Big Pharma, and saves millions of people each year from malaria. But the shrub still grows, and herbalists still make their anti-malaria remedy. It is just nowhere near as good as the one made by Big Pharma.

Bobbo.

Sharks DO get cancer. You are repeating an old myth.

User avatar
scrmbldggs
Has No Life
Posts: 19641
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Custom Title: something
Location: sees Maria Frigoris from its house!

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby scrmbldggs » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:52 am

I guess one reason is that they can't patent a natural plant and, AFAIK, they weren't the ones discovering the effectiveness of wormwood anyway... the other might be because they started making the drug with/from yeast. :-P
Hi, Io the lurker.

User avatar
Lance Kennedy
Has More Than 9K Posts
Posts: 9884
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:20 pm
Custom Title: Super Skeptic
Location: Paradise, New Zealand

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:17 am

Congratulations for discovering the relationship to wormwood.
It is not European wormwood, of course. Same genus, but different species. It could be called Chinese wormwood, but for some reason it is called sweet wormwood. As far as I know, European wormwood is not effective against malaria.

European wormwood was used to make absinthe, a potent distilled liquor. It also included anise and fennel, and had a distinct aniseed flavor. It was wrongly believed for a long time that absinthe cause madness, and was toxic. In fact, it is no worse than brandy, whiskey etc. But it was banned in most countries, and never quite got back into favor after the bans were lifted. Absinthe also has no therapeutic value. Rather the contrary, as for any strong alcohol.

User avatar
Poodle
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8119
Joined: Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:12 pm
Custom Title: Regular sleeper
Location: NE corner of my living room

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Poodle » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:07 am

I see you fall victim to your own propaganda, Lance. Absinthe was typically distilled to an alcohol content of 45% to 74%. It was CONSIDERABLY worse than brandy, whisky etc.
As for "Many people who use herbel 'remedies' believe they are safe because they are "natural". Not so." I can simply respond that many people who use modern remedies believe they are safe because they are packaged nicely and prescribed by a doctor. Not so.
And then there's "To make things worse, because herbal remedies are not covered by strong regulations (like pharmaceutical drugs), they are often adulterated with real drugs without anyone knowing". That may be so in NZ but it certainly isn't in the UK (and theoretically anywhere in the EU). Doing so would break a slightly exaggerated million and one laws and result in lengthy jail terms.
I agree completely with your message that herbalism should be, to a degree, controlled so that the consumer is provided the same protection as when buying foodstuffs - but scaremongering for no particular reason (as is performed by the larger pharma companies on a regular basis) is way over the top.

User avatar
Lance Kennedy
Has More Than 9K Posts
Posts: 9884
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:20 pm
Custom Title: Super Skeptic
Location: Paradise, New Zealand

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Lance Kennedy » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:08 pm

Poodle.

OK. Stronger alcohol is more harmful than weaker, but that was not really my point.

On adulteration of herbal remedies.
Not specifically a situation for NZ, but a global phenomenon. And I bet it happens in the UK as well. After all, it happens everywhere else.

User avatar
OlegTheBatty
True Skeptic
Posts: 10407
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2008 2:35 pm
Custom Title: Uppity Atheist

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby OlegTheBatty » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:37 pm

"Keeping big pharma out of it" makes me chuckle. Most herbal remedies are made by companies which are owned by Bayer, GlaxcoSmithKline , . . .

Just because the business has a name like Mom's & Pop's Herbal Remedies doesn't mean Mom & Pop are majority shareholders.

I'm curious as to how much of the political pressure to not regulate herbals comes from the corporate overlords.
. . . with the satisfied air of a man who thinks he has an idea of his own because he has commented on the idea of another . . . - Alexandre Dumas 'The Count of Monte Cristo"

There is no statement so absurd that it has not been uttered by some philosopher. - Cicero

User avatar
Poodle
Has More Than 8K Posts
Posts: 8119
Joined: Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:12 pm
Custom Title: Regular sleeper
Location: NE corner of my living room

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Poodle » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:21 pm

Well, I have to differ. Selling stuff here which does not contain what is quoted on the packaging, or not stating anything which is contained in the product, is regarded as quite a serious transgression (the laws were heavily amended just a few years ago). Not all herbal remedies are sold by big companies - there are thousands of herbalists who make up their own preparations for sale, but they are subject to precisely the same labelling regulations. There are also very big penalties for making claims for any product not backed by (proper) clinical research. Recently introduced tightening of the regulations forced a large number of homeopaths out of business (where they belong). It's probably not worth losing a few thousand pounds and your entire business for the sake of grinding an aspirin into your herbal pain relief mixture.

The same laws, by the way, also affected mediums, fortune tellers, and all manner of other quacks in general.

User avatar
scrmbldggs
Has No Life
Posts: 19641
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Custom Title: something
Location: sees Maria Frigoris from its house!

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby scrmbldggs » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:37 pm

Poodle wrote:I see you fall victim to your own propaganda, Lance. Absinthe was typically distilled to an alcohol content of 45% to 74%. It was CONSIDERABLY worse than brandy, whisky etc.
As for "Many people who use herbel 'remedies' believe they are safe because they are "natural". Not so." I can simply respond that many people who use modern remedies believe they are safe because they are packaged nicely and prescribed by a doctor. Not so.
And then there's "To make things worse, because herbal remedies are not covered by strong regulations (like pharmaceutical drugs), they are often adulterated with real drugs without anyone knowing". That may be so in NZ but it certainly isn't in the UK (and theoretically anywhere in the EU). Doing so would break a slightly exaggerated million and one laws and result in lengthy jail terms.
I agree completely with your message that herbalism should be, to a degree, controlled so that the consumer is provided the same protection as when buying foodstuffs - but scaremongering for no particular reason (as is performed by the larger pharma companies on a regular basis) is way over the top.

Funny thing is that, AFAIK, alcohol was initially used to preserve herbal remedies and only later became those herbal liquors people nowadays hit themselves over the head with in bars and pubs. But as digestive and other remedies, they were enjoyed only to small amounts and not as beverages. Similar to but still not like these.
Hi, Io the lurker.

User avatar
Gord
Real Skeptic
Posts: 29108
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:44 am
Custom Title: Silent Ork
Location: Transcona

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby Gord » Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:40 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:Gingko, taken to boost memory, is linked to hemorrhages.

By people who can't remember where to stick it?
"Knowledge grows through infinite timelessness" -- the random fictional Deepak Chopra quote site
"You are also taking my words out of context." -- Justin
"Nullius in verba" -- The Royal Society ["take nobody's word for it"]
#ANDAMOVIE

User avatar
scrmbldggs
Has No Life
Posts: 19641
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Custom Title: something
Location: sees Maria Frigoris from its house!

Re: Problems with herbal remedies.

Postby scrmbldggs » Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:56 pm

:lol:
Hi, Io the lurker.


Return to “Healthcare”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests