Items in AFP with MESH term: Phytotherapy

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Echinacea - Article

ABSTRACT: Echinacea is the name of a genus of native North American plants, commonly known as the purple coneflower. The most widely used herbal product in the United States is a liquid extract made from the root of Echinacea purpurea. Because the active component of the plant has not been identified, commercial echinacea products are not typically standardized to any particular component. The research literature on echinacea is difficult to evaluate because of the heterogeneity of the products used in various studies. The herb has been recommended as a prophylactic treatment for upper respiratory infection and is widely used for this indication. However, based on the current literature, it appears that prophylactic echinacea does not have a significant impact on the frequency, severity, or duration of upper respiratory infection. The data regarding treatment of upper respiratory infection appear to support a modest positive effect. No significant herb-drug interactions with echinacea have been reported; adverse effects reported generally have been uncommon and minor, including abdominal upset, nausea, and dizziness.


Gingko Biloba - Article

ABSTRACT: Ginkgo biloba is commonly used in the treatment of early-stage Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, peripheral claudication, and tinnitus of vascular origin. Multiple trials investigating the efficacy of ginkgo for treating cerebrovascular disease and dementia have been performed, and systematic reviews suggest the herb can improve the symptoms of dementia. Ginkgo is generally well tolerated, but it can increase the risk of bleeding if used in combination with warfarin, antiplatelet agents, and certain other herbal medications. Clinical issues of safety, dosing, use in the perioperative period, and pharmacology are addressed in this review.


Saw Palmetto for Prostate Disorders - Article

ABSTRACT: Saw palmetto is an herbal product used in the treatment of symptoms related to benign prostatic hyperplasia. The active component is found in the fruit of the American dwarf palm tree. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of saw palmetto in reducing symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Saw palmetto appears to have efficacy similar to that of medications like finasteride, but it is better tolerated and less expensive. There are no known drug interactions with saw palmetto, and reported side effects are minor and rare. No data on its long-term usage are available. The herbal product also has been used to treat chronic prostatitis, but currently there is no evidence of its efficacy.


Valerian - Article

ABSTRACT: Valerian is a traditional herbal sleep remedy that has been studied with a variety of methodologic designs using multiple dosages and preparations. Research has focused on subjective evaluations of sleep patterns, particularly sleep latency, and study populations have primarily consisted of self-described poor sleepers. Valerian improves subjective experiences of sleep when taken nightly over one- to two-week periods, and it appears to be a safe sedative/hypnotic choice in patients with mild to moderate insomnia. The evidence for single-dose effect is contradictory. Valerian is also used in patients with mild anxiety, but the data supporting this indication are limited. Although the adverse effect profile and tolerability of this herb are excellent, long-term safety studies are lacking.


Panax ginseng - Article

ABSTRACT: The herbal remedies referred to as ginseng are derived from the roots of several plants. One of the most commonly used and researched of the ginsengs is Panax ginseng, also called Asian or Korean ginseng. The main active components of Panax ginseng are ginsenosides, which have been shown to have a variety of beneficial effects, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects. Results of clinical research studies demonstrate that Panax ginseng may improve psychologic function, immune function, and conditions associated with diabetes. Overall, Panax ginseng appears to be well tolerated, although caution is advised about concomitant use with some pharmaceuticals, such as warfarin, oral hypoglycemic agents, insulin, and phenelzine. Panax ginseng does not appear to enhance physical performance. Products with a standardized ginsenoside concentration are available.


Health Effects of Garlic - Article

ABSTRACT: Garlic has long been used medicinally, most recently for its cardiovascular, antineoplastic, and antimicrobial properties. Sulfur compounds, including allicin, appear to be the active components in the root bulb of the garlic plant. Studies show significant but modest lipid-lowering effects and antiplatelet activity. Significant blood pressure reduction is not consistently noted. There is some evidence for antineoplastic activity and insufficient evidence for clinical antimicrobial activity. Side effects generally are mild and uncommon. Garlic appears to have no effect on drug metabolism, but patients taking anticoagulants should be cautious. It seems prudent to stop taking high dosages of garlic seven to 10 days before surgery because garlic can prolong bleeding time.


Cranberry for Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections - Article

ABSTRACT: Traditionally, cranberry has been used for the treatment and prophylaxis of urinary tract infections. Research suggests that its mechanism of action is preventing bacterial adherence to host cell surface membranes. Systematic reviews have concluded that no reliable evidence supports the use of cranberry in the treatment or prophylaxis of urinary tract infections; however, more recent, randomized controlled trials demonstrate evidence of cranberry's utility in urinary tract infection prophylaxis. Supporting studies in humans are lacking for other clinical uses of cranberry. Cranberry is a safe, well-tolerated herbal supplement that does not have significant drug interactions.


Chasteberry - Article

ABSTRACT: For centuries, chasteberry has been used to treat many hormone-related gynecologic conditions. The current literature supports the use of chasteberry for cyclical breast discomfort and premenstrual syndrome; data on its use for menstrual irregularities and fertility disorders are weak. Its traditional use as a galactagogue (i.e., a substance that enhances breast milk production) is not well supported in the literature and should be discouraged. There are no clinical data to support the use of chasteberry for reducing sexual desire, which has been a traditional application. Chasteberry is well tolerated; reported adverse effects are minor and may include gastrointestinal complaints, dizziness, and dry mouth. No herb-drug interactions have been reported, but caution is advised for its concomitant use with dopamine agonists or antagonists. Optimal standardization and dosing recommendations await clarification in clinical studies.


Common Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss - Article

ABSTRACT: Over-the-counter dietary supplements to treat obesity appeal to many patients who desire a 'magic bullet' for weight loss. Asking overweight patients about their use of weight-loss supplements and understanding the evidence for the efficacy, safety, and quality of these supplements are critical when counseling patients regarding weight loss. A schema for whether physicians should recommend, caution, or discourage use of a particular weight-loss supplement is presented in this article. More than 50 individual dietary supplements and more than 125 commercial combination products are available for weight loss. Currently, no weight-loss supplements meet criteria for recommended use. Although evidence of modest weight loss secondary to ephedra-caffeine ingestion exists, potentially serious adverse effects have led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale of these products. Chromium is a popular weight-loss supplement, but its efficacy and long-term safety are uncertain. Guar gum and chitosan appear to be ineffective; therefore, use of these products should be discouraged. Because of insufficient or conflicting evidence regarding the efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid, ginseng, glucomannan, green tea, hydroxycitric acid, L-carnitine, psyllium, pyruvate, and St. John's wort in weight loss, physicians should caution patients about the use of these supplements and closely monitor those who choose to use these products.


Milk Thistle - Article

ABSTRACT: Milk thistle has been used as a cytoprotectant for the treatment of liver disease, for the treatment and prevention of cancer, and as a supportive treatment of Amanita phalloides poisoning. Clinical studies are largely heterogeneous and contradictory. Aside from mild gastrointestinal distress and allergic reactions, side effects are rare, and serious toxicity rarely has been reported. In an oral form standardized to contain 70 to 80 percent silymarin, milk thistle appears to be safe for up to 41 months of use. Significant drug reactions have not been reported. Clinical studies in oncology and infectious disease that are under way will help determine the efficacy and effectiveness of milk thistle.


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