Good websites for evaluating herbs and supplements

rusty_blackhaw(6a)June 13, 2005

The Internet has spawned a flood of information about herbs and dietary supplements, much of it from alternative practitioners and supplement sellers. The result is a confusing mass of claims and conflicting assertions.

I've found that the following sites are good starting points for evaluating the usefulness and safety of herbal drugs and supplements.

PubMed is the National Library of Medicine's database of scientific articles going all the way back to the 1950s. It's easy to use. You enter a term like black cohosh and get back a list of research publications that have mentioned the term. It's a good way to find out if a supplement has been studied, and what conclusions have been made about its usefulness and safety.

The National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the organization set up by the National Institutes of Health to investigate possible alternative drugs and treatments. They provide evaluations of many herbal products and explain how to judge whether a treatment is right for you.

The American Cancer Society has evaluated many of these products and has a searchable database, as well as articles summarizing the role of supplements and possible interactions with anticancer drugs.

Quackwatch* is a great resource on health fraud in general. There are many articles on alternative therapies and their practitioners, as well as an extensive searchable database.

The Berkeley Wellness Letter offers information about numerous herbal products (some of it is available only by subscription). has a section on alternative medicine and a good deal of useful information.

The FDA has up-to-date information on both mainstream and alternative drugs, including product recalls and legal action. It also has advice on selecting dietary supplements.

*It was requested in another thread in this forum that I answer questions that Richard (lundpix) had about Quackwatch. So here goes.

Richard stated that Dr. Barrett, the retired physician who runs the Quackwatch website "does not quote any peer-reviewed journal." Actually, peer-reviewed journals (the most reliable sources for published research) are cited frequently by Dr. Barrett and the numerous authors that contribute to Quackwatch. They are listed in the references at the end of a given article.

According to Richard, Quackwatch claims that if a site recommended using herbs, "you could tell it was a quack." This is obviously not the case, as Richard himself goes on to quote Dr. Barrett as stating that some herbs are useful.

Quackwatch is skeptical in general that sites marketing and selling supplements provide reliable information - and as links to such websites in the Herbalism forum have repeatedly shown, they do supply incorrect and misleading information.

As to what qualifications are necessary for exposing quackery - as far as I know, there is no university that grants a doctorate in this area. In the end, it's up to us to sort out hype and advertising scams from reliable evidence. Sites such as the ones listed above give us a good basis on which to continue our own investigations.

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Thanks, Eric. I appreciate links like that.

Does anyone have links to reliable sources in S. Central Pa for herb plants? I find that my local garden shops only have a few.

I would rather travel to get the plants, than have them mailed.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 1:08AM
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I haven't done business with this outfit, but they might be worth checking out ( might have a listing on them).

Depending on how far you want to travel - Well Sweep Herb Farm in NW New Jersey seems to have a good variety of herbs. I've ordered from the Sandy Mush Nursery in North Carolina before, and they have a lot of interesting things.

Which reminds me that Google can be a starting point for looking into herbs and dietary supplements. You just have to wade through a ton of commercial sites.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 9:50AM
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I would add MIchael Moore's site. He's very conservative, and actually RESEARCHES and will point out contraindications and pitfalls.

Some of his books: "Medicinal herbs of the __region__" are excellent.

Here is a link that might be useful: Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 10:04AM
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Will qualify lazygardens good recommendation for those who don't know; this is Not Michael Moore the filmmaker, but Michael Moore, one of the best herbalists of the past century. His website is very thorough, and worth bookmarking, even getting a few printer cartridges and downloading his manuals.(Free, as long as you don't profit)

Another excellent resource is The American Botanical Council, based in Austin,Texas. The produce a wonderful magazine, Herbalgram, which anyone with a serious interest in medicinal herbs should subscribe to.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 9:30PM
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lundpix(Southern Cal)

I have a few more links that you may find useful.

This is from NCI called OCCAM. They are currently requesting reports from people who have used a treatment from Canada called 714-X.

Memorial Sloan Kettering has this site

University of Maryland gives us this excellent reference site.

This site is highly eclectic and definitely way out of bounds in some areas, but has three good sections that deal with some basic body chemistry that I found helpful to gain understanding of common types of molecules. Don't wander beyond these few pages or you will be in never-ever land.

And now, for my all time favorite! This site is not about herbs most of the time, but does have occasional programming by Greats like Norman Farnsworth of University of Illinois at Chicago. The video lectures are often presented by experts in the field and frequently are presenting material yet to be published. (This may disturb some viewers. Discretion is advised.)

My most recent viewing was a three hour plus section on Melatonin and Chronobiology.

Download RealPlayer. Once at the address, look for past events. They have a search function or just browse.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 12:53AM
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Eric, I appreciate your posting. It will be very much helpful to get correct information.
I would like to add the web site I do refer many a times and that is They are having a good section on herbal information.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 11:17AM
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Some more useful sites:

Healthfinder, run by the Dept. of Health and Human Services lists a wide range of medical resources, including information on herbal medicine.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center features reviews of numerous herbal drugs. The information on interactions with other drugs may be especially useful.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 1:54PM
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This thread has a lot of good links! I agree that PubMed is a real treat. I spend about an hour every morning just punching in key words of interest and reading the abstracts.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 8:13AM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

An excellent thread that probably should stay on page one. Eric had a couple of good sites also.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 7:50PM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

bump up

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 4:26AM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

bump up for newbees

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 11:42PM
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From what I can see every site Eric listed is a "Big Pharma" site.

You'd be better off doing some actual research.

I have cancer yet I don't believe what the American Cancer Society has to say that should tell you something.

The FDA is listed and has to be one of the biggest bad jokes ever perpetrated on the American People. When you think FDA think of "Equal," "Splenda" etc. They are poison and the FDA knew it. Those are "Tip Of The Iceberg" examples.

If you want herbal sites I suggest you get them from "herbal" people not a "Big Pharma" ad man. Get them from someone who "walks the way" and "talks the talk" if you follow.

If you find any I'd be as interested as anyone else.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 10:24AM
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"From what I can see every site Eric listed is a "Big Pharma" site."

Not a single one of these sites is run by or for a drug company.

Unless you're using "Big Pharma" as a generic term for "anyone who disagrees with my health care philosophy".

Another poster in this thread (with whom I disagreed on the proven efficacy of an herbal cancer therapy) also cites governmental and university-based information sites. The PubMed site is a searchable database of herbal and other medicine-related articles published in a huge variety of journals, and has been frequently linked to in this forum by those who fervently espouse herbal medicine.

Do you label everyone who uses and appreciates the information from these sites a "Big Pharma ad man"?

Few of us have the time and resources to do original research. But we can use these sites to get good, reliable information to guide us on what therapies to use - as opposed to the scaremongering, conspiracy theories and distortions that are so common on many "alternative" websites.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 2:51PM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

Maybe some people who don't have time for original research, might have more time if they quit lambasting herbs on the herbalism forum. They might have time to research medical problems and as doctors could do something to clean up their own profession, and let herbalism people clean up theirs. Something like "get the log out of your own eye so you can see more clearly to get the splinter out of someone else."
eric everytime you open your mouth you're a big adman for the medical industry including drugs,except when you're an art critic of course.
Is anyone who disagrees with your health care philosophy called an herbal fake?

Pubmed is a great site it also gives positive reponses for herbs.

Apparently the health care system needs some honest scaremongering and conspiracy theory brought up as they seem to be true. It wont be near as hard to clean up herbalism as it will be to clean up the health care system. I have to give you credit eric, your post was'nt as aggressive as some others, but still pretty aggressive and aggressive defensive.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 4:26PM
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I call things "Big Pharma" that big pharma owns indirectly or directly. Indirectly would be control. That about sums up your list, Eric.

For someone giving us herbs references you'd think those references would be written by those that actually use/study herbs for non-profit. Old Indian Herbs remedy books might even come to mind.

When "Big Pharma" and "herbs" are used in the same sentence I usually disregard the "tainted" results.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 10:42PM
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