Problems Persist With Ginseng Supplements

Alternative Medicine, Men's Health, Woman's Health
Long-time readers know of my fondness for ConsumerLab.com. Their independent testing of natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) guides my teaching and my prescribing. Now, a review by ConsumerLab.com finds 45% of ginseng products don’t provide the full amount of the ingredient indicated on the label, or worse, are contaminated. ConsumerLab.com is now reporting that five out of eleven of the most popular ginseng supplements in the U.S. were selected for testing and contained less ginseng than expected from their labels or were contaminated with lead and/or pesticides. Problems with the quality of ginseng supplements have been reported by ConsumerLab.com since 2000. Ginseng is a popular herb with U.S. sales last year of $83 million according to Nutrition Business Journal. "Consumers need to be wary of the quality of ginseng…
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GAO study reveals contaminants in herbal supplements

Alternative Medicine, Nutritional Health
Today I'm in Orlando, Florida, where I'll be speaking to the Florida Academy of Family Physicians on this exact issue. And, I find that most of my patients and most physicians are simply unaware of the danger. The New York Times is reporting, "Nearly all of the herbal dietary supplements tested in a Congressional investigation contained trace amounts of lead and other contaminants, and some supplement sellers made illegal claims that their products can cure cancer and other diseases, investigators found." Although the "levels of heavy metals – including mercury, cadmium and arsenic – did not exceed thresholds considered dangerous," almost half of them "contained pesticide residues that appeared to exceed legal limits." Notably, "Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview…
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Stricter government oversight of dietary supplements may be moving closer – thank goodness

Alternative Medicine, Nutritional Health
Whenever I give talks on natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements), whether to healthcare professionals or laypersons, people seem shocked to learn that these substances are virtually unregulated in the United States. I've written about the many problems this causes healthcare professionals and consumers in my book, Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely. So, I was very happy to read an AP article reporting "Stricter government oversight of dietary supplements is moving closer, thanks to an agreement among senators to include guidelines in" the Dietary Supplement Safety Act. The report says that in a letter sent to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) outlined "four key areas of…
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Herbals and Heart Health

Alternative Medicine, Heart Health
The folks at Natural Standard recently sent out a notice of a significant review in the cardiology literature on the potential interactions between herbs and heart medications. A news release on the study can be found here. This new analysis suggests that herbal supplements, such as Ginkgo biloba and garlic, may cause dangerous interactions when combined with heart medications. Some examples of herbs and their adverse effect on heart disease management include: St. John’s wort, which is typically used to treat depression, anxiety and sleep disorders among other problems, reduces the effectiveness of medications contributing to recurrences of arrhythmia, high blood pressure or increase in blood cholesterol levels and risk for future heart problems. Ginkgo biloba, which is supposedly used to improve circulation or sharpen the mind, increases bleeding risk in…
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Newly released test show most Milk Thistle supplements are substandard

Alternative Medicine, Nutritional Health
White Plains, New York — December 2, 2009 — A recent review by ConsumerLab.com of ten milk thistle supplements showed that only one met ConsumerLab.com’s quality standards.  Two products failed to properly list the part of the milk thistle plant used -- a FDA requirement.  Among the remaining supplements, only one contained the expected amount of silymarin compounds, which are believed to be the active constituents of milk thistle. Studies suggest silymarin may be helpful in type 2 diabetes and, possibly, certain liver conditions.  While most products claimed that their milk thistle extracts were standardized to 80% silymarin, ConsumerLab.com found actual amounts to range from 47% to 67%.  Sales of milk thistle in the U.S. have climbed for several years, reaching $95 million in 2008 according to the latest figures…
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Some herbal supplements associated with dangerous blood lead levels in women

Alternative Medicine
Reuters Health carried a very interesting report indicating that some herbal supplements may boost the levels of lead in the blood of women. A study, published in November showed that among 12,807 men and women age 20 and older, by Dr. Catherine Buettner, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues found blood lead levels about 10 percent higher in women, but not men, who used specific herbal supplements. When they examined herbal supplement use among women of reproductive age (age 16 to 45 years old), "the relationship with lead levels was even stronger, with lead levels 20 percent higher overall, and up to 40 percent higher among users of select herbal supplements compared to non-users," they report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Lead accumulates…
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Physician calls for increased FDA regulation of dietary supplements

Alternative Medicine, Nutritional Health
In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I lament the lack of regulation of dietary supplements in the U.S. Because of this lack, it's very difficult for consumers to know, when it comes to herbs, vitamins, and supplements, if what they purchase actually contains what the label says. It's almost impossible to know if the natural medication is contaminated or not. As a result, there are now other voices beginning to call out for at least some regulation of these substances. (more…)
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The Ten Commandments of Preventive Medicine – Part 8 – Alternative Medicine

Children's Health, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Parenting, Woman's Health
In my latest book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I teach people how to utilize these ten essentials that are necessary to live a happy and highly healthy life. Under The Essential of Self-Care, teach what I call “The 10 Commandments of Preventive Medicine. Here’s the eighth installment of this ten-part series. (more…)
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Considering an Alternative Therapy? Here are signs that it may be fraudulent and unsafe

Alternative Medicine, Bioethics, Cancer, Children's Health, Heart Health, Medical Economics, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Parenting, Woman's Health
According to HealthDay News, alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, or acupressure, are becoming increasingly popular. But you should always use caution when experimenting with any alternative therapy, because it is not regulated by any government agency. Here are some tips to avoid quackery and medical fraud for you and your loved ones. More Information: (more…)
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Study Links Herbal Medicines to Lead Poisoning. How can you find safe herbs?

Alternative Medicine, General Health, Health Headlines, Medical Economics, Men's Health, Nutritional Health, Woman's Health
Fox News is commenting on a study published in the August 27 issue of JAMA in which medical researchers say that one-fifth of Ayurvedic herbal medicines sold on the Internet contain dangerously high levels of lead, arsenic and mercury. How’s a consumer to protect themselves? My Take? (more…)
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FDA Cracks Down On Unproved Cancer Cures

Alternative Medicine, Bioethics, Cancer, Health Headlines
The AP is reporting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on teas, supplements, creams, and other products that falsely claim to cure, treat, or prevent cancer, even though they are not agency-approved drugs. All are available for sale on the Internet.  The agency has sent 25 warning letters to companies and individuals marketing these products, FDA officials said Tuesday. Twenty-three of the letters went to domestic companies and two to foreign individuals. (more…)
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