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"NATURAL" DOESN'T MEAN "SAFE" WHEN IT COMES TO HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS, DOCTOR SAYS

SOURCE:    Andrew A. Skolnick

Special To The Post-Dispatch PUBLICATION: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
SECTION: NEWS

DATE: March 30, 2000
EDITION: FIVE STAR LIFT
PAGE: A11


As many hikers and campers painfully discover, poison ivy is 100 percent natural yet is anything but safe. Every plant produces a number of substances - some of which are good for us and others that are downright poison.

The notion that "natural" means "safe" is a myth, says Dr. Stephen R. Braddock, assistant professor of clinical child health at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Braddock directs the Missouri Teratogen Information Service, a free statewide service available to pregnant women, parents, obstetricians, family practitioners and other health care providers of women and children in Missouri and surrounding states.

The service, which operates through the Children's Hospital at the university, provides information about possible adverse effects of drugs, chemicals or infections on pregnant women and their fetuses.

"Most women don't realize that herbal supplements are not regulated by the (Food and Drug Administration), nor are the manufacturers required to perform clinical studies before releasing their product to the general public," he says. "Because there is no regulation of these products, the consumer is in no way assured of getting the same dose in every pill or tablet."

One dose may in fact be twice as strong as another, he said, and some products may not contain much of the labeled ingredient at all. In addition, because many of these "natural" supplements contain not just one ingredient, but a multitude, there is no way to predict the combined effects of these substances without proper clinical studies, Braddock says.

"Women should be aware of what they're taking and why," he adds. If a person needs medical therapy, the therapy should be based on scientific evidence that shows its benefits outweigh its risks, he says. This is especially important for pregnant women because so little is known about the causes of most birth defects, he said.

Many herbs contain substances that are known or suspected of inducing miscarriages, Braddock says, and should not be taken by pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant.

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