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Use of herbal medication 'needs research'

Doha, December 15, 2011

The increasing use of herbal and nutritional supplements worldwide needs additional research to better understand their benefits, limitations and risks, an expert said.

Speaking at a medicine and U public lecture series entitled Herbal Supplements and Your Health, held at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar campus in Education City, Dr Ravinder Mamtani, professor of public health and associate dean for global and public health at WCMC-Q, pointed out that the supplements contain pharmacologically active substances, which have the ability to alter biochemical and physiologic body functions.

“Treat herbal and nutrition supplements as medicines. They have benefits, but they can also create health problems. Do not use them in place of proven treatments,” Mamtani said. “Many may produce side effects and interact with other prescription medicines. Consult a medical doctor before using them, especially if you are pregnant or lactating, or have a medical condition.”

The World Health Organisation estimates herbal and nutritional substances are used in some form by more than 4 billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s population. Their use in the Middle East is also widespread. In general, the demand is strong and growing.

Many studies have produced positive results in favour of several supplements. Vitamin D and calcium supplements are appropriate for preventing bone loss and maintaining bone strength.

There is also enough evidence to support the use of certain herbal supplements like saw palmetto and St John’s wort for the treatment of benign prostate enlargement and depression respectively. However, Dr Mamtani points out that there is very little or inconclusive evidence in favour of other supplements such as ginseng, feverfew and Evening Primrose Oil.

Most supplements are considered to be generally safe, with only minimal side effects, when used in optimum doses, although some may have adverse effects. For example, kava, commonly used for its anxiety relieving effect, may produce serious liver damage. Also, many herbal products may interfere with or displace other effective treatments, he said.

It is now known that the use of St John’s wort may reduce the levels of anti-HIV medication, namely indinavir, among patients with Aids.

Furthermore, certain nutritional supplements can present problems, such as large doses of vitamins, which can be detrimental to health. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Qatar | Doha | research | Herbal | Benefits | Risks | Nutritional Supplements | Limitations |

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