Dr. Stephen Bent is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Here’s his view.

  • Herbs can be sold without demonstrating safety and efficacy.
  • In fact, limited scientific evidence supports the safety and efficacy of most herbal products.
  • They are often perceived as “natural” and therefore safe. Yet, many side effects owing to active ingredients, contaminants, or interactions with drugs have been reported — as summarized here and here.

The bottom line?
Of the top 10 herbs, only 5 (ginkgo, garlic, St. John’s wort, soy, and kava) have scientific evidence suggesting efficacy.

Dr. Bent concludes, “Herbals are not likely to become an important alternative to standard medical therapies unless there are changes to the regulation, standardization, and funding for research of these products.”

That sounds right to me. Based on current funding, when it comes to herbals, it’s really “CaM,” not “CAM.” Any change will require big pharma type funding.

7/22/08 20:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.