Monday, March 6, 2017

Review Raises Questions About Herbal Meds for Heart Problems

While there’s scant evidence that herbal medications are safe or effective to treat heart disease, they remain popular among people with heart disease, a new review suggests.

“Physicians should improve their knowledge of herbal medications in order to adequately weigh the clinical implications related to their use,” said senior review author Dr. Graziani Onder.

Onder, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, Italy, is an assistant professor in the department of geriatrics, neurosciences and orthopedics.

“Physicians should explain that natural does not always mean safe,” he said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.

In the United States, herbal medications can be sold without being tested in clinical trials. As a result, there’s little evidence of their safety or effectiveness, the review authors explained.

To explore the issue, the investigators looked at 42 herbal medications that have been identified as a possible treatment for one or more heart conditions, including high blood pressure, heart failure and hardening of the arteries.

Onder’s team found there isn’t enough evidence to determine if herbal remedies are causing potential complications.

Many people don’t tell their doctor they are taking herbal medications, probably because they don’t view these as treatments that could cause serious side effects, the study authors said.

The review was published Feb. 27 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

My Take:
How did this study get published? Onder’s team found there “isn’t enough evidence to determine if herbal remedies are causing potential complications” but that lack of evidence is worthy of publication?

I do agree that “physicians should improve their knowledge of herbs” but without that knowledge they are not qualified to talk to their patients about the potential risks.

By the way, the potential risks with herbs are almost always herb-drug interactions as herbal therapy is very safe.
I also agree that herbal quality in the United States is terrible. As much as 80% of the herbs available for purchase do not contain the herbs listed on the label. That is why I get 95% of my herbs from Australia, where they manufactured to pharmaceutical quality by law.

The fact that herbal quality is so poor in the U.S. doesn’t not mean is little evidence of their safety or effectiveness. In fact, PubMed listed 428 studies on the effectiveness and safety of herbal treatment for heart failure alone. These studies do exist, they just weren’t conducted in the United States.

The Bottom Line:
Herbal therapy for heart conditions is popular because it works. Herbs have been proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials when supervised by a qualified herbalist. Just a cursory look at PubMed will reveal hundreds of studies on this subject. I question the motivation behind this so-called “study” and how any peer-reviewed journal would publish such garbage.

Source: February 27, 2017 National Institutes of Health

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