For Centuries This Herb Has Been Hailed as a Miracle Cure. but Is It Really Dangerous?; EXCLUSIVE: EXPERTS CALL FOR TRIALS INTO `WONDER DRUG' SIDE-EFFECTS
Dobson, Roger, Sunday Mirror (London, England)
THEY call it the Sunshine Herb, and for thousands of years it has been hailed as a wonder drug.
But now it is casting a cloud over Britain's multi-million- pound herbal supplement industry.
St John's wort is one of hundreds of alternative treatments used to combat everything from depression to diarrhoea.
It's been used for thousands of years and is now seen as a natural alternative to Prozac.
Sales have reached record levels - pounds 100 million a year in Europe - as more of us seek alternative ways of healing ourselves. Britons alone spend over pounds 5 million a year on the capsules.
But now it looks like the St John's bubble is about to burst as experts raise serious concerns about the way it's used. They have called for tighter controls over the way it - and other herbal remedies - are sold unchecked in Britain.
Medical experts in Ireland have already banned over-the -counter sales of the supplement because of potentially dangerous side effects. They want to have it licensed - making it available by prescription only until clinical trials have taken place.
And now their British colleagues are launching their own investigation because too little is known about the possible risks when mixed with vitamins and other supplements.
The Irish Medical Board fears mixing St John's wort with certain drugs or foods - such as red wine, cheese, cough medicine or other anti-depressants - could cause hypertensive crisis. Other experts fear this crisis could result in various conditions which could include paralysis, strokes and heart failure due to a potentially lethal increase in blood pressure.
The Medicines Control Agency has launched a review of the status of the herb when it is mixed with vitamins and other nutritional ingredients.
Clinical trials, which could cost up to pounds 20 million, are normally funded by big-name companies who want to market the drug. But in the case of St John's wort, so many small firms are selling it there might not be anyone rich enough to fund the trials. …