Herbal Supplements: How They Can Work for You
A 2007 report found that 38 percent of American adults and 12 percent of children had tried complementary and alternative medicine, including herbal products, yoga, massage and diets.
However, when herbal products--which are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration--are used without a physician's supervision, users may get less-than-desired results and actually do more harm than good.
Natural supplements and therapies are a part of the growing practice of integrative medicine, which combines the best ideas and practices of mainstream and alternative medicine and aims to stimulate the body's own healing potential.
"Integrative medicine neither rejects mainstream medicine nor embraces alternative practices uncritically. It strives for optimal health and prevention and considers a person's biochemical individuality," said Ronald Ciccone, MD, director of integrative family medicine for Lourdes Health System.
Sorting Good from Bad
Dr. Ciccone said it's easy for people to buy into false claims or take incorrect dosages. Sources of authoritative, unbiased information include the Web sites of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the Alternative Therapy Cancer Guide, he said. Dr. Ciccone also noted that studies on alternative therapies are published in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Ciccone said many of his cancer patients take supplements as an adjunct to chemotherapy or radiation, either to increase the effectiveness of those therapies or lessen side effects. His recommendations include:
- high intravenous doses of vitamin C or hydrogen peroxide;
- a good multivitamin;
- milk thistle to protect the liver from damage and eliminate toxins from the body;
- anti-inflammatories such as fish oil and curcumin.
Choosing the Right Supplement
Besides cancer, natural supplements have been found to help many other conditions, including:
Arthritis/joint pain: Glucosamine with MSM and fish oil are among the most popular supplements and are recommended by orthopedists.
Diabetes: A supplement that includes the ingredients chromium, alpha-lipoic acid, an extract of green tea, an extract of cinnamon and vanadium, along with a good diet, can help mild diabetes.
Hypertension: CoQ10 and/or arginine can be taken alongside a prescription, often helping reduce the dose of the medication and lessen the chance of side effects.
Cholesterol: Try fish oils (up to 5,000 mg daily of total omega-3 content) and the natural statin red yeast rice with monacolin K.
At Lourdes, we believe in a wholistic approach to medicine and offer an array of complementary therapies on both an inpatient and outpatient basis, from massage and guided imagery to surgery preparation and weight-loss programs. Visit www.lourdesnet.org to see how we can help you.
Ronald Ciccone, MD
For more information about Dr. Ciccone or another Lourdes expert, call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) or visit the Lourdes Health System Web site at www.lourdesnet.org and click on "Find a Physician."