Herbal Product Use Still in Review.




Mayo Clin Proc

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The use of herbal supplements, teas, and tinctures has certainly increased as the general population has become more interested in the medicinal properties of herbs. It is estimated that the American public spends over $5 billion each year on herbal products.1 The growth rate of the sales in specific supplements has been astounding with herbs such as gingko and echinacea experience a 50% growth rate in 1996 alone.2 With usage as high as this figure indicates and growing by the year, health professionals from the private and public sector have been attempting to learn the details of what is used, who uses it, and how it is used.
One such study set out to not only evaluate the prevalence of supplement use by adults but also to evaluate the issues of herbal supplement use such as what the perceived value to the user might be. In this particular study, seven hundred and fifty-two people age 18 or older the Minneapolis/St. Paul area were mailed surveys regarding the use of 13 specific herbs. Of those eligible, 376 completed the survey. Over 61% of those responding to the survey claimed to have used an herbal supplement within the past 12 months. Five of the thirteen herbs had "promotion of general health and well-being" listed as its most common reason for use. For 11 of the 13 herbs, less than 60% of those who used the herb rated it as "effective" or "very effective." For 9 of the 13 herbs family, friends, and written materials were listed as the primary sources of information. For the metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the authors concluded, "herbs are used frequently to treat or prevent an array of health conditions. At present, people who use herbal products appear to rely predominantly on family and friends for information."3
The US government determined that more information needs to be known about safety and efficacy in order to better protect and inform the public. In June of 2001, the National Academy of Science established a committee to evaluate how the FDA should address safety issues surrounding the use of dietary supplements, including herbs and herbal products.


1. Bauer BA. Herbal therapy: what a clinician needs to know to counsel patients effectively. Mayo Clin Proc. 2000 Aug;75(8):835-41.
2. U. S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. March 1999.
3. Harnack LJ. Prevalence of use of herbal products by adults in the Minneapolis/St Paul, Minn, metropolitan area. Mayo Clin Proc. Jul 2001;76(7):688-94.