In recent years, the use of herbal and dietary supplements in the United States has substantially increased. Herbal supplements are traditionally considered as an optional treatment for non-serious diseases that can be cured at home without essential healthcare intervention. However, herbal remedies are not suitable for everyone, and their effectiveness in particular cases is highly controversial. In any circumstances, herbal supplements are not applicable to severe symptoms, and a patient needs appropriate medical assistance to avoid the further deterioration of his or her health.
Advantages of Herbal Supplements
The use of herbal and dietary supplements has a variety of advantages. They are traditionally less expensive, natural, and accessible. Most of the multi-purposed herbal supplements that come in various forms are effective over-the-counter drugs, and they are available in pharmacies without a prescription. Systematic laboratory researches support the positive influence of flaxseed for hypertension, ginseng for glucose level improvement, Agnus cactus for premenstrual discomfort, and phytoestrogens for menopause symptoms’ relief (Izzo et al. 691). Adhatoda is a herb that has positive antitussive and anti-inflammatory effects (Braun and Cohen 1). In general, herbal remedies have fewer adverse effects, and they are “generally better tolerated than synthetic medications” (Izzo et al. 691). Herbal supplements may be added to food to balance a person’s routine diet as well, and some herbs can improve digestion and have a positive impact on the immune system.
Disadvantages of Herbal Supplements
Nevertheless, herbal and dietary supplements have a number of disadvantages. The most obvious disadvantage of herbal remedies is that they need a long time to produce an effect. Some herbal supplements have a significant negative influence on human health and a number of adverse effects. According to the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease and the National Institutes of Health, 20% of all liver injuries are caused by herbal and dietary supplements, such as multi-ingredient supplements, anabolic steroids, and green tea extract (Navarro et al. 363). Various herb-drug interactions may potentially cause severe adverse events as well. During laboratory investigations of the herbs’ efficacy for human health, the issue of contradictory results may occur. For instance, the researches show the inconclusive efficiency of echinacea for the prevention of cold, aloe vera for psoriasis, ginkgo for tinnitus, cranberry for the prevention of cystitis, and pomegranate for a cardiovascular adjustment (Izzo et al. 691). Although the positive influence of ginger on pregnancy‐induced nausea is discovered, other herbs may produce a harmful effect on pregnant women and children.
Position of Governmental Agencies over Herbal Supplements
The production of prescription drugs with the use of purified plant derivatives is strictly controlled by the FDA. “Quality control of herbal medicines” ensures their reliability and safety for customers (Mukherjee 2). However, the market for herbal supplements is not closely regulated by the authorities. The FDA states that herbal and dietary supplements are not intended for purposed medical treatment, and they cannot prevent severe health problems, and their improper use may be harmful (“FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”). The FDA recommends the primary consultation with a health care professional before the use of any supplements (“FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”). Although “the quality control of herbal medicines” and supplements should be upgraded and exercised by manufacturers, the Food & Drug Administration does not regulate the production (Ivanova et al. 1). According to federal law, herbal supplements are not required “to be proven safe to FDA’s satisfaction before they are marketed” (“FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”). The law demands the corresponding labeling of every supplement with terms “dietary supplement,” “herbal supplement,” or “calcium supplement” (“Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide”). The advertising of all supplements is controlled by the Federal Trade Commission.
Braun, Lesley, and Marc Cohen. Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide. 4th Edition, Volume 2. Elsevier, 2015.
“Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide” FDA. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2015, Web.
“FDA 101: Dietary Supplements.” FDA. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2015, Web.
Ivanova, Natalia V., et al. “Authentication of Herbal Supplements Using Next-Generation Sequencing.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 5, 2016, pp. 1-24.
Izzo, Angelo A., et al. “A Critical Approach to Evaluating Clinical Efficacy, Adverse Events and Drug Interactions of Herbal Remedies.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 30, no. 5, 2016, pp. 691-700.
Mukherjee, Pulok K., editor. Evidence-Based Validation of Herbal Medicine. Elsevier, 2015.
Navarro, Victor J., et al. “Liver Injury from Herbal and Dietary Supplements.” Hepatology, vol. 65, no. 1, 2017, pp. 363-373.