Shedding Light on Herbal Supplements
WebMD News Archive
Green means that one or more good-quality studies have been
done in people; yellow suggests that early data from human studies looks
promising; orange indicates that only animal studies have been done; and red
means little data on the supplement is available.
"Right now, only 25% of the listings are green or yellow,
but we'll update them as new information becomes available," says BNE
reviewer Paul Lachance, PhD, a professor of nutrition science and executive
director of the Nutraceuticals Institute at Rutgers University in New
You also can make informed decisions about herbal supplements
by following this advice from doctors, scientists, consumer advocates, and
- Research what's known about the supplement you're considering, paying close
attention to possible interactions with drugs or other supplements.
- Read the list of ingredients carefully to prevent allergic reactions.
- Tell your doctor what supplements you're taking.
- Choose supplements with multiple ingredients, instead of just one or
- Select products that meet US Pharmacopeia and Consumerlab standards.
- Don't rely on price as an indication of quality.
- Make sure the expiration date is far enough ahead that you can use the
- Continue to strive to reduce dietary fat and exercise regularly, and eat at
least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Wait 30-45 days before evaluating your response to a particular
To keep pace with public interest, physicians should know as
much about natural products as they do about pharmaceuticals, Columbia's
Dillard tells WebMD.
"In Germany, 25% of all prescriptions are for natural
products because doctors learn all about them in medical school," he says.
Fortunately, many American medical schools now include such training as
For more information, visit the Center for Food Safety and
Applied Nutrition web site at www.foodsafety.gov.