The final installment in our supplement series will take a look at some of the reliable resources available to consumers for supplement and herbal information.
There are several places one can look to find concise information about a botanical supplement. This brief list of sources is evolving, and new credible sources are being compiled as more clinical evidence is validated:
- The Complete German Commission E Monographs – Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines by Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Busse WR, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS (eds.)
This book is an English translation of the standard European reference for all herbals.
- The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs by Blumenthal, M.
This book is unique in that it provides a list of all brand-name products used in various clinical trials. This list is particularly useful since all products used in clinical trial must meet current GMP standards, and are thus more likely to be quality products. The book includes concise monographs of about 40 commonly used herbal supplements. It also briefly summarizes the current clinical evidence that supports or refutes the purported claims of the herbal.
- www.consumerlab.com. This service conducts tests of dietary supplements and furnishes reports on different specific supplement brands. The detailed reports are available by subscription only, and review potency, contaminants and other potential concerns with supplements.
- www.naturaldatabase.org (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database) and www.naturalstandard.org. (Natural Standard) are also subscription sites that provides a comprehensive list of both herbal and supplement monographs linked to primary literature that supports or refutes purported claims. Monographs developed by the Natural Standard staff are also available at www.medlineplus.gov under the “Drugs and Supplements” link.
- www.herbalgram.org – A site run by the American Botanical Council, a not-for-profit organization that provides a variety of information on herbal medicine. The publication HerbalGram, available from the website, also provides interesting articles and research reviews on a several different topics.
- www.herbmed.org – A site operated by the Alternative Medicine Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provides monographs of 20 herbs free-of-charge and a more comprehensive list on a subscription or pay-per-access basis. The monographs summarize clinical data on an herbal and link to the primary literature.
As we have discussed, when used properly, nutraceuticals can be a powerful tool in increasing the health, treatment benefits and quality-of-life of many patients. Conversely, these products can be seriously problematic when used improperly and without appropriate supervision. We strongly recommend seeking the advice and guidance of a healthcare practitioner who is knowledgeable and experienced in the use of nutraceuticals, prior to taking them. This is particularly true if one is fighting a disease such as cancer. And, equally important, discuss all of the supplements you are taking with your treating physician.