Herbs have been the main source of medicine throughout human history. That they are still widely used today is not a throwback to the Dark Ages but an indication that herbs are a growing part of modern, high-tech medicine: about 25-30 percent of today's prescription drugs contain chemicals derived from plants. Some 119 chemical substances from 91 plants are now used in Western medicine. Of these, 74 percent were folk medicines brought to our pharmacies through scientific research. Researchers today examine folk or historical uses of plants to find new drugs for cancer, AIDS, and even the common cold.
In Western countries, contemporary herbal medicine is based on European phytomedicine. Derived from plants or plant parts, phytomedicines are not isolated chemicals but preparations from an entire plant or from its root, leaf, flower, or fruit. Thus, such well known compounds as menthol (from peppermint), or digitoxin (from foxglove) are not considered phytomedicines. The European phytomedicine market is estimated at over $8 billion in annual sales, 70 percent of which are made in Germany, a country with a rich tradition of herbal medicine. One survey revealed that 76 percent of German women drink herbal teas for health benefits, and more than 50 percent take herbal remedies in the early stages of illness. Germany also has a favorable regulatory system that permits well-researched, well-documented herbs to be sold as drugs. Herbs widely used in Europe for many years are now becoming popular in the United States as dietary supplements.
Many Americans are now taking greater responsibility for their own health and are consequently seeking alternatives to conventional medicine such as prevention through attention to diet, exercise, and the use of dietary supplements and herbs. Millions of consumers, frustrated with the cost of medical care and the not-so-wonderful side effects of wonder drugs, are turning to these health-care alternatives. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans spent $13.7 billion on alternative forms of health care in 1990. As we move into the twenty-first century, herbs will no doubt be increasingly important in the maintenance of health and in the prevention and treatment of disease.
In the United States, herb products are regulated as foods rather than drugs, unless a product has been approved as a nonprescription (over-the-counter) or prescription drug. Most herb products are now designated as dietary supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA, popularly pronounced D-shay) laid the foundation for federal regulation of dietary supplements, including herbs. DSHEA seeks to guarantee availability of products; allow truthful, nonmisleading scientific information to be used in conjunction with their sale; and give consumers some information on the product's benefits, as well as appropriate cautions. While DSHEA preserves existing safety standards in the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, it offers additional safeguards to protect consumers from. unreasonable risk or injury. The bill also places the burden of proof that a dietary supplement is adulterated or unsafe on the government, which must now present its evidence that a dietary supplement is unsafe in court. Formerly, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could simply order a manufacturer to stop selling a questionable product.
DSHEA also permits third-party information such as publications, articles, chapters in books, and scientific reports to support the sale of dietary supplements. The information must not be false or misleading, nor may it promote a particular manufacturer or product brand; it must present a balanced view of the scientific information and, if displayed in a store, must be physically separate from the product and free of any appendages such as stickers.
The bill allows product labels to describe effects on general wellbeing or on structure or function in humans, but drug claims may not be made. For example, a manufacturer may claim that a garlic product helps to reduce cholesterol-but not that garlic helps to reduce cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Dietary supplement labels with structure or function claims must also carry a disclaimer: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. When this disclaimer appears on a product label or in advertising, a structure or function claim is being made, and presumably, the manufacturer can substantiate it. The manufacturer must also notify the Secretary of Health and Human Services within thirty days of making such a claim.
DSHEA has also established an Office of Dietary Supplements within the National Institutes of Health to conduct, coordinate, and collect data on dietary supplements and to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services. A separate Presidential Dietary Supplement Commission has been formed to study and make recommendations on dietary supplement labels and is to issue a report of its findings.
NOTE: The information contained within the web site is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified physician and/or naturopathic doctor, and the information given within is not meant to replace modern medicines or established medical treatments without the proper guidance of a qualified health practitioner. It is only meant for educational purposes. AllNatural.net and its representatives make no claims as to the ability of plants and their derivitives to cure you or treat you of any ailment known to man. Before using any plants and their derivitives you should seek the advice and training of a qualified professional and your personal physician. DO seek guidance if you do not know how to use these plants and their derivitives properly. AllNatural.net and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper ingestion or other improper uses of plants and their derivitives. By use of this web site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless AllNatural.Net and its suppliers, heirs, employees and affiliates and you agree to the terms contained within the privacy and site use policy.
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