You can find many different “magic” supplements that have claims of preventing cancer, promoting weight loss, clearing your skin and making you feel younger. We all wish that these were true. Unfortunately, there are many instances where herbs and nutrients that have no research to back them up are touted to cure all kinds of diseases. Even when there is a herb or nutrient that has shown to be effective for a given condition, there is very little quality control on most supplements (more on this in a later blog post).
A great example of inflated health claims coming from a trusted source is Dr. Oz. Like I said in my last blog post, if Dr. Oz had remained primarily a public health educator, I would be his biggest fan. Unfortunately, he began to suggest supplements. At first, he was recommending vitamins and fish oil, which do have research showing how beneficial they can be in certain circumstances. Later he began to suggest things like gardenia cambogia and raspberry ketones that have no data to back them up. Even worse, they have no safety data and there is no available information about interactions with medications. This is where I stopped being a fan of Dr. Oz. He had changed from teaching people about health conditions and encouraging them to adopt healthier habits to selling “magic pills” that would help them lose weight without having to exercise or eat more healthy foods.
Natural Medicine IS Evidence-Based Medicine
Some people use these inflated health claims to dismiss all of natural medicine. Like any kind of medicine, natural medicine requires careful prescribing and dosing. For example, licorice root may work well as an anti-inflammatory or bronchodilator for some people but for others it may cause increased blood pressure. Another commonly self- prescribed herb is Senna. Senna is a stimulant laxative. When people take senna every day, their intestines will eventually respond to only that stimulation which creates a form of dependence. Then they are not able to produce a bowel movement without taking Senna. For people who have constipation, another herb may be indicated for the short-term while we are figuring out what dietary factors may be contributing to their constipation but we probably will not jump directly to senna because of its habit-forming nature.
We do not expect a single medication to work well for everyone and have no side effects so we cannot expect that of herbs or nutrients. With educated prescribing based on individual needs and researched outcomes, herbs and nutrients are safe and effective treatments.
At Third Stone Health, we do not use herbs like gardenia cambogia or raspberry ketones because of their lack of safety and efficacy data. I often quote my colleague, Mindy Cash, ND, “I prescribe only evidence-based treatments – they either have good research to back them up or they have been in clinical trials for many generations.” Herbs have been used as medicine since the beginning of humankind so we do not get many surprises about side effects or long-term effects (like kidney disease in people taking proton pump inhibitors or heart disease in people taking anti-inflammatories.) We all wish there was a magic pill that could help everyone but sadly, there is not.
At Third Stone Health, we can help you find what is right for you – contact us to make an appointment today.
Dr. Gwenn Rosenberg