nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Informative Article In Consumer Reports On CAM

If you subscribe to Consumer Reports (not Consumer Digest), your September issue will have a cover story on dietary supplements and herbal products. 

If you don't subscribe, it's worth buying the issue at the newstand if you can find it.

My favorite part is the list of the most dangerous supplements:
1.  aconite
2. bitter orange (used for weight loss; risk for high BP, MI, stroke, arrhythmia)
3. chaparral  (used for arthritis, cancer, weight; causes kidney and liver damage)
4.  colloidal silver (used for infection; risk for kidney damage)
5.  coltsfoot
6.  country mallow (contains ephedrine; banned in the US)
7.  germanium
8.  greater celandine
9.  kava (used for anxiety; risk of liver damage)
10.  lobelia (used for airway problems; causes a tremor, reported deaths from OD)
11.  yohimbe (aphrodisiac; can cause high BP, arrhythmias, heart failure)

I've made notes where I know something about these items.  Some of them I have never run across.

But I've led a sheltered life.  I only use pharmacologically active compunds that have approved by the FDA for specific symptoms or conditions.  Even then, with caution.

Supplements are largely unregulated and these compounds get added in to various products that are offered commercially.  Unless you read the label and are familiar with the 10,000 different things that companies throw in, you don't really know what you're buying and what it's effects might be.

Other parts of the Consumer Reports story cover multivitamins and how to compare them.  The part of the story I have a problem with is the section on supplements that people could use.  They list glucosamine for joint disease, and there have been several recent well-controlled studies that have failed to show benefit  (see my post here for some of that data).  In addition it can alter glucose metabolism in animal studies.

They also put St. John's wort on their list.  I can't recall it right now, but I think there are problems here, too.

If you want to be safe, be skeptical.  Talk to your doctor.

Doc D

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