Magazine article Drug Topics

Hot Herbs

Magazine article Drug Topics

Hot Herbs

Article excerpt

Here are some

predictions for

the yearS popular

herbal remedies

Just a few years ago, the medicinal benefits of plants like St. John's wort and echinacea were largely unknown or ignored in the United States. Now, they're fast becoming mainstream remedies. More and more Americans are turning to these and other herbal supplementsalternative medicine has definitely taken root. And as more herbs undergo rigorous clinical studies-and media attention-it's likely patients will start asking you: Just what is ginkgo biloba, anyway?

"I think everyone has jumped on everything," exclaimed Ara DerMarderosian, professor of pharmacognosy at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy & Science. A specialist in natural products, DerMarderosian has witnessed firsthand an explosion in scientific and popular interest in herbal remedies. "From aloe to bilberry to capsicum ... go down the list alphabetically, and every one of them is being studied by somebody."

Here are some best picks from industry experts for the next "power plants" to catch national attention:

Saw palmetto: Thank an aging baby boomer population for generating interest in this native american plant. Extracts of saw palmetto berries are believed to improve symptoms such as higi frequency urination in patients iwth nonmalignant prostate enlargement. There is also some evidence that it may restore function in impotent patients. Saw palmetto, however, is not without drawbacks, including the potential for gynecomastia. Experts like Paul Doering, R.Ph., director of Florida's Drug Information & Pharmacy Resource Center, remain cautious about the berries' increasing popularity: "Saw palmetto berry probably has in it some natural estrogen activity, and in the male that can cause an unwanted side effect of breast enlargement. Now, if it causes breast enlargement and has hormonal-like properties, what other tissue in the body might it be affecting?"

Ginkgo biloba: Already well established as a cognitive function enhancer in Europe, this plant is now being studied as possible treatment for depression, Alzheimer's, and stroke. While the exact mechanism remains unknown, ginkgo appears to increase cerebral arterial dilation and lead to raised levels of oxygen and glucose in neuronal cells. …

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