Herbs: Cure All or 21st Century Snake Oil?
Do you take herbal supplements? Do they really help?
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and undertaken by Drs. Charles A. Morris and Jerry Avorn, the internet is “rife with bogus claims on herbs.” Morris and Avorn evaluated 443 herbal remedy Web sites and found that 338 of them either sold an herbal product or linked directly to a vendor. Of those, 273 offered at least one health claim for their herbs. Of those, 149 claimed to treat, prevent, diagnose or cure specific diseases, even though such claims are specifically prohibited without prior approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
According to Morris and Avorn’s study, more than half the Web sites they evaluated did not have the FDA disclaimer. And, more disturbing, there were numerous instances of sites putting forth unsubstantiated disease claims. And 76 percent of the Web sites studied are profit-making vendors of the herbal remedies for which they make dubious claims.
Most experts agree that herbal remedies do indeed provide health enhancement and symptom relief. But beware: don’t take the advice of internet sites or clerks at natural/health food stores. Never take any supplement or preparation without consulting your healthcare provider first.