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Criticism of herbalism

February 8, 2018

Hi everyone. What do people think of this critique of herbalism? anita-clay.com

I think it's a bit over the top.

Comments (6)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Actually, it is pretty darn accurate!! Pretty much everything stated in that critique is true and can be validated. Herbal remedies have not passed any safety, efficacy, or human clinical trials. Because these natural medications are not subjected to the same scrutiny as FDA-approved medications, it is even more important to research potential benefits or side effects, especially related to certain health issues. Though the FDA does require that commercially available herbal remedies follow good manufacturing procedures that ensure some level of quality, this in no way ensures that they are safe for anyone's use. Any supplement could have potential side effects, and these negative consequences can increase when taken with other over-the-counter or prescription medications. Be sure you speak to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you taking in addition to the herbal supplement you are considering. And preparing your own herbal remedies without some sort of extensive scientific understanding of the plant and its properties is just asking for trouble.

    I don't really find this to be a critique of herbalism - which can have value - but more a critique of Ms Clay. And that is where most of the pitfalls of herbalism lay....amateur or uneducated practitioners.

  • lazy_gardens

    It's pretty accurate, actually. And I use some herbal remedies ...

    Natural (so is ricin from castor beans, and water hemlock, and cobra venom)

    Effective (mostly unproven)

    Safe (mostly untested and unproven )

    Can be used in all age ranges (also untested and unproven)

    Each prescription is tailor-made for each individual (this is what she's really selling, the "I'm so special the doctors can't help me" feeling)

    May be used alongside conventional medicine: Only if you have a serious talk with your real physician, and can get a straight answer from the herbalist about the analysis of their medicines, because herbal medicines can counteract or augment the effects of real medicines. People have DIED because the herbal concoctions they were taking messed up the real medicine.


    I have pharmacy books from before synthetic medicines were a possibility, and they are all about analysing them for strength and purity, checking for contaminations and getting the dose accurate.

  • rusty_blackhaw

    Clay's website contains dangerous advice, including this: "Herbal medicines are appropriate for any age - from the unborn child to respected elders."

    Many if not most herbalists would disagree strongly, and there are readily available lists online of herbs to avoid using during pregnancy.

    Then we have Clay telling prospective patients that it's up to their "discretion" whether or not to tell their physicians that they're using herbal drugs. It's important to always share this information with your "conventional" doctor, since herbs may interact with prescription drugs and cause bleeding or other problems (this doesn't even take into account adulteration of herbal supplements with prescription meds by unscrupulous sellers).

    One problem with the linked critique - I didn't see any identification of the author (former patient? fellow M.D. or herbalist? or what?). If you're putting up an entire website to criticize a practitioner, some background about yourself would add credibility, even if you choose anonymity.

  • paul_stevens42

    I agree with all of the above, we need evidence before using any kind of medicine. But I don't think herbal medicines should be dismissed out of hand. They are not random chemicals - over the years they have been adopted as treatments and there might be a reason for that.

    One problem is that it is difficult to patent herbal medicines, so no one is going to pay millions to produce the same level of evidence that conventional medicines have.

    I'm open minded, but I agree that this particular herbalist is saying things she just can't say.

  • rusty_blackhaw

    Lots of herbal/plant-based medicines have had patented versions hit the market and been widely used in evidence-based treatments (colchicine and taxol come immediately to mind), and there continues to be abundant research on non-patentable plant-derived meds like aspirin (and a horde of other potential drugs isolated from plants), so that argument is a non-starter.

    It's puzzling that on the one hand, enthusiasts claim that herbal remedies are ignored because there's no money in prescribing them, yet simultaneously note the huge number of plant-derived drugs used in "conventional" medicine.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    There is a vast difference between harvesting herbs out one's garden and using them for medicinal purposes and using a plant derived but commercially available medicine (although now almost all are synthesized products) that are used in conventional medicine. For one the dosage is very closely regulated and quality controlled. The other is hit or miss at best and is done generally without any qualified medical oversight.

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