Most of you know by now, that I am simultaneously open and closed to the idea of herbal medications.
On the one hand, it is no secret that a substantial number of medications currently used by Western medicine, originated in a plant or fungus somewhere. On the other hand, the world of herbal medications is drenched in poor science, marketing gimmicks, outrageous claims, and pure falsehoods.
Replace “swords” with “unfounded opinion”, “executive power” with “medical confidence”, and “masses” with “data”.
The NIH has established the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, whose purpose is to evaluate these claims. I recommend their website for your consideration.
Some of you will note the “Herbs at a Glance” section, which I also recommend. In point of fact, you can download the entire section as a free ebook in whatever format your e-reader likes. Which seems like a good deal.
Once you start reading the monographs, you will note they frequently cite 2 separate websites. They are:
Both of which required a subscription for full access. The subscription is about $250/year, give or take. If you really want to know your herbal meds (after you have checked out the free NIH stuff), I think you’ll have to pony up.
The first website offers for free a sample monograph about Ginko, here. When I say I want to see the science behind any particular herbal medication, this is a fantastic example. All the sources, all the science, all the articles, everything. This is the level of detail you should trust.
Another example of good science is this review of Valerian root, published here, by the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Exhaustive (perhaps exhausting) detail, down to microscopic examination of the pollen, and HPLC results.
Here, however, is a link to something I would consider suspect. With no intended offense to the commenter who posted it (at my request, even), I’m looking for the data. In that site, you see many claims, but no references. I can claim whatever I want. We have had anecdotal reports of success with black pepper, here, on this site, but the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”. This is not to say it doesn’t work–and certainly if you’ve had personal experience of success, good on you–but as far as I can tell the claims have not been subject to rigorous evaluation.
So take your information with a grain of salt. Look at the examples of “good”, compare and contrast with examples of “suspect”. Look at what someone is trying to sell you. And as always, apply common sense, reason, a review of the toxicology, and a healthy dose of skepticism.