HONOLULU, Hawaii – The United States is in the midst of a national crisis over the use of herbal remedies and botanical extracts in health care, but not everyone is buying into it.
“This is an epidemic and we need to have solutions,” said Dr. Anthony Breslin, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and author of The Herbivorous Doctor: Integrating Science and Holistic Medicine in Health Care.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have issued warnings for the use and sale of many herbal products, including herbs like the nightshade and chamomile, in the United States.
But herbal remedies are not the only products being regulated, as the Drug and Alcohol Administration (DA) is also cracking down on the use, marketing and sales of herbal products.
The DEA said herbal products like nightshades, chamoms and other plants have been linked to serious side effects including headaches, irritability and heart problems.
“I’m sure many people are going to think this is a problem,” said DEA spokeswoman Emily A. McBride.
“They’re probably going to be a little bit surprised.
But it’s a real concern and one we’re taking very seriously.”
The agency has seized hundreds of products for “drug abuse” and “counterfeit or adulterated” ingredients.
The FDA and the DEA also issued warnings about some herbal products including tea, ginger and tea tree oil.
In recent months, the DEA has issued a total of 16 new warnings for synthetic marijuana products.
For many people, this may seem like a long way off.
But according to McBride, there’s a growing awareness that these are not just for medicinal purposes.
“We’re seeing more and more people coming forward with information,” she said.
“There are more and better information available, but it’s just a matter of time.”
In some cases, consumers have started to see their prescription medicines change hands through a trusted third party like a doctor.
In some cases it’s not even legal for them to buy the medicine.
McBride said many consumers have found that if they don’t like a product, they can easily swap it for another.
“When it comes to alternative medicines, it’s like having two cars.
You have to be careful of which one you buy and which one it’s your doctor who you trust to make the right decisions,” McBride said.
For a lot of people, the most important factor in the prescription of a medicine like herbal medicine is that it’s safe.
That means it must be safe and not be abused, according to Bresline.
He said a lot can go wrong with a prescription of an herbal medicine.
“The way to get an accurate assessment of the risk of a particular compound is to compare the drug with another, better-tolerated one,” Breslins said.
“What’s a good comparison?
Is it more potent?
Is the compound in your body more active?
Is there a greater likelihood of side effects?””
That’s where the real risk comes in,” he said.
The herbivorous doctor and herbal remedies, which include plants such as the nightseeds and chams, are one of many medicinal treatments that are gaining popularity.
There are about 50 plant-based therapies on the market, including a botanical medicine, a homeopathic remedy, a dietary supplement and a herbal medicine like tea.
McBeth said she sees more patients now than ever before, because herbal remedies have been the focus of many health care programs, including the U.N. Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (UNFCC) and COPE (Convention on Combating Illicit Tobacco Products).
“I see a lot more patients, and I think it’s because they’ve realized the benefits of these products are so compelling,” McBeth told ABC News.
“People are looking for the best alternative to a prescription drug, and the best way to do that is to learn how to make your own medicine.”
The herbal medicine market is booming in some states, but many people do not think that’s necessarily the case.
“For people who are used to the idea of using a prescription pill or prescription product, the idea that you can take a natural product and still have a prescription is a little unrealistic,” McBritt said.
McBrith said the best advice she can give is to avoid herbal medicine at all costs.
“It’s probably best to go with your doctor and find out exactly what you’re taking and how much,” she explained.
“You have to have a complete conversation with your physician about all of your concerns.
If they think it can help you, they should prescribe it.”
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