Nutrition enthusiasts have been saying for years that “we are what we eat.” In this issue of JFP, Drs. Malone and Tsai review the evidence regarding the medicinal properties of certain herbal and botanical supplements. (See here.) Although there are many unfounded claims about the health effects of a wide variety of supplements, increasing evidence from well-conducted randomized trials and large epidemiologic studies demonstrates that certain items we ingest have therapeutic value for a variety of conditions.
However, as Dr. Malone points out, herbal supplements and botanicals are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, so manufacturers are not required to provide proof of effectiveness or safety to market their products. Some of these products have adverse effects. For example, butterbur can cause liver toxicity.1
Because about 38% of Americans use supplements, all primary care clinicians should know which products do—and do not—have evidence of efficacy.2 I suggest you read Dr. Malone’s 2-part article (part 2 is available here), but I can’t resist highlighting several of my favorites: