Investigator: Are there any benefits of taking herbal supplements, and if so, which ones should you take? It’s next on The Scope.
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Interviewer: We’re with Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, and I want to start off by knowing, first of all, are there any natural herbal supplements that someone should be taking?
Dr. Jones: I think it depends on what you think the supplement is giving you. We have data to suggest that taking vitamins for the average American does not actually prolong their health, because most Americans do not follow a vitamin-poor diet. In fact, one study suggested that women who took vitamins died younger.
Now I don’t think it was the vitamins that were killing them, and maybe they didn’t feel very good and that’s why they took the vitamins. So, is this something that should be in your diet but you are not eating a balanced diet?
I think a lot of us take fish oil because we don’t buy a lot of fish or omega-3s aren’t in our diet, but if we were eating the diet we should be eating. wouldn’t need it. In fact, in randomized studies, it’s hard to show that fish oil makes a big difference.
So my argument would be that if we ate the nuts, grass-fed beef, and fish that are high in omega-3s, we would get what we should be getting.
Now the second is products that are claimed to have medicinal properties that are not part of our regular diet. St. John’s Wort, which is not part of our regular diet, contains a compound used for depression. So if you go for an herb because it contains a chemical that is actually bioactive, then that’s another story. Some of our great medical breakthroughs like aspirin, which the Indians used willow bark tea for fever and isolated acetylsalicylic acid in it, and voila, you can get purified aspirin.
The same goes for digitalis, which has digitalis. This does not mean that we know all the medicinal properties that exist. However, for these herbs that they say have something super cool for treating the issues, if that was really true we would have purified it and sold it as medicine.
Interviewer: They might work, but maybe that’s because there are prescription drugs in a lot of them and they sell them as a natural supplement.
Dr Jones: Well, that has been a particular problem with the China cellar. Of course, China has been using traditional Chinese medicine for thousands and thousands of years, and there must be something to it. But they went, someone went and bought some of the traditional Chinese blood pressure medicine, let’s say, and found out that a really high percentage of them contained propranolol, a chemical medicine that we use as medicine for it. hypertension here in the United States. Some of the herbal erectile dysfunction drugs contain Viagra.
So I think it’s like a lot of things, beware of the buyer. If you think you’ve got something and really like it, and you think it makes a difference to you, then you might want to look for that USP sign, or consumer lab sign, which means that someone has at least tested it and you stick to those products.
Interviewer: So, are there any herbal supplements that you would recommend people to try that are known to take care of them. . . because I’m a complete jerk when it comes to that. So when I drink my chamomile tea does it really help me fall asleep at night or is it just that. . .
Dr. Jones: Well, if you think it’s going to help, then it will. Ginger, actually ground ginger, and ginger tea that contains ginger has been shown to be better than a placebo for nausea during pregnancy. So ginger, which has long been used in herbal medicine for nausea, actually works better than placebo. But you kind of have to eat ginger or eat crystalline ginger. What you want, hopefully, contains ginger. Ginger, luckily, is one of those things where your mouth can usually tell you if there’s ginger in it.
Interviewer: So a pill doesn’t help in this case.
Dr. Jones: Right.
Interviewer: It must be the food.
Dr. Jones: It must be ginger.
Dr. Jones: Right. Ginger therefore helps relieve nausea. Some herbal weight loss products, especially herbs, actually contain epinephrine, a stimulant chemical. So what are we doing there?
Interviewer: What about green tea? Don’t we say that green tea is supposed to have all of these great qualities?
Dr. Jones: Green tea contains antioxidants. People who drink tea tend to live longer, but people who drink tea, green tea, are moderate people, so it is not known if it is green tea or. . .
Interviewer: Or the moderate lifestyle.
Dr Jones:. . . let it be moderate lifestyle. It’s the same as some of the chemicals in red wine that are antioxidants. Red wine has been shown to contain antioxidants, and if you give it in huge amounts the amount that if you drink it in red wine would intoxicate you all the time, rats live longer. But the question is, do people who drink moderately live longer because they are moderate people? They drink in society, so they laugh and they have friends.
We’re really struggling to do some kind of randomized trial that’s meaningful. However, if you like things, they probably make you feel better, whether it’s the placebo effect or not. What you don’t want are the high levels of lead, mercury, bacteria, and other things. It is therefore very difficult to know which are the reliable sources.
Interviewer: Okay. It seems the key is if you think something is right for you, try incorporating it into your food or into something you already eat that is natural. If you get it in pill form, look for these seals or be very skeptical because you don’t know what you are getting in these cases.
Dr. Jones: That is absolutely correct.
Investigator: It may work, but it may not work for the reasons you think it works.
Dr. Jones: Right.
Interviewer: You have.
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