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Barbara Burke

Good For You

By Barbara Burke

Wednesday, August 11, 1999


Good sources for herb facts

SALES of medicinal herbs are booming in the United States. But with this increased interest comes a greater need for reliable information about herbs and herbal products.

Three major reference guides to herbal medicines can help you separate the hype from truly helpful information and avoid potentially dangerous interactions between herbs and your medications.

These books contain the common and scientific names of herbs, their uses and the conditions for which an herb has been judged effective; as well as conditions when a particular herb should not be used, side effects and precautions, recommended dosages, drug-herb interactions, the optimal time an herb should be taken and more.

Bullet The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines: Edited by Mark Blumenthal, American Botanical Council, 1998, 685 pages, $189, call 800-373-7105, or visit http://www.herbalgram.org

THE therapeutic use of herbs and phytomedicines has been popular in Germany for decades. About 600-700 different medicinal herbs are sold there. German doctors and pharmacists rely on the government's herbal watchdog agency, commonly called "Commission E," for guidance in administering and dispensing herbal remedies. The Commission E data for more than 300 herbs, referred to as monographs, has been translated into English in this volume edited by Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council.

"The Commission E Monographs represent the most accurate information available in the entire world on the safety and efficacy of herbs and phytomedicines," according to Varro E. Tyler, professor emeritus at Purdue University.

Bullet PDR for Herbal Remedies: Medical Economics Co., 1998, 1244 pages, $59.95, call 888-859-8053, or visit http://www.medecbookstore.com

FOR more than 50 years, "Physicians' Desk Reference" has been a trusted source of information on prescription medicines and their effects. Now, the publisher offers information about 300 herbal remedies based on the Commission E data and an additional 300 monographs compiled by botanist Joerg Gruenwald.

Bullet The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines: By Andrea Peirce,William Morrow and Company, 1999, 728 pages, $35, http://www.williammorrow.com

THE stated mission of the American Pharmaceutical Association (AphA) is to help pharmacists aid consumers in using their medicines safely and effectively. Herbal products and other natural remedies are categorized as dietary supplements, which are different from prescription and nonprescription drugs. Yet, because Americans are increasingly using natural remedies for medicinal purposes, your doctor and pharmacist need to know what you are taking.

Many references made to "German health authorities" in this book refer to the Commission E findings. Commission E bases its approval (or disapproval) of herbal formulations on German products, which are tightly regulated. Because standardization of herbal products is voluntary in the United States, benefits or risks may be different

"The APhA's Practical Guide to Natural Medicines" recommends consumers

Bullet Question information sources.

Bullet Select high-quality products.

Bullet Report adverse reactions.

Bullet Don't take unnecessary risks.

Bullet Don't assume more is better.

Bullet Don't self-treat a serious disease or symptom.

Bullet Don''t make drug substitutions on your own.

Bullet Don't ignore adverse reactions to a substance.



Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor
who has been teaching and writing about food
and nutrition since 1975.





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