May 28, 2007 / 2:51 PM / 12 years ago

Herb enthusiasts often do not stick to indications

A garlic farmer sits with his produce at the main square of the village of Santa Marina del Rey in northern Spain during the Annual Garlic Festival on July 18, 2000. Roughly half of adults who use herbal supplements do not use them in accordance with "evidence-based" indications, US researchers report. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Roughly half of adults who use herbal supplements do not use them in accordance with “evidence-based” indications, U.S. researchers report.

The findings, which appear in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings for May, stem from more than 30,000 adults who were surveyed regarding their use of herbs.

The six herbs studied and their evidence-based indications were: echinacea for upper respiratory tract infection, garlic for high cholesterol, ginseng for mental performance/diabetes, St. John’s wort for depression, soy for high cholesterol/hot flashes, and kava-kava for anxiety.

Overall, 55 percent of subjects used herbs for their appropriate evidence-based indications, results showed. However, for most of the herbs, evidence-based usage rates hovered around 32 percent.

The exceptions were ginseng, with an evidence-based usage rate of just 3.8 percent, and echinacea, by far the most popular herb, with a rate of 68 percent.

Women were more likely than men to use herbs according to their evidence-based indication, as were college-educated individuals. Conversely, people younger than age 60 and black persons were more apt to herbs for things outside their evidence-based indications.

In a written statement, study chief Dr. Aditya Bardia, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, urges doctors, pharmacists, and other health professionals to “proactively educate consumers and advocate for public health policies that would disseminate evidence-based information regarding the appropriate use of herbs.”

“Further research is needed to confirm the study findings and evaluate mechanisms that enhance evidence-based use of herbal supplements,” the authors conclude.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, May 2007.

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