Americans want to use herbal medicines and natural products, however there are a limited number of reliable resources available regarding appropriateness of their use. To explore the scientific research behind natural products used to treat depression, heart disease, and cancer, hypothetical case studies were prepared and presented to Naturopathic physicians.
Naturopathic physicians receive four years of training in the herbal treatment of disease, which makes them one of the most knowledgeable sources in the U.S. The naturopaths recommended natural products to treat each category of disease presented to them. Of the products recommended, only those with substantial research are discussed, while products with minimal scientific research were excluded.
Research clearly shows St. John’s Wort and 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) to be as effective as conventionally used drugs in reducing depressive symptoms, but with fewer side effects. For hyperlipoproteinemia, vitamin C is beneficial when patients are deficient, inositol hexaniacinate may be an effective alternative to nicotinic acid therapy, garlic moderately improves lipids, and gugulipids and pantethine have lipid-lowering properties similar to conventional drug therapy. For cancer, the research is very interesting and may lead to new paths of anticancer research. Astragalus and Coriolus versicolor are beneficial in cancer therapy by boosting the immune system when used in conjunction with conventional therapies. The in vitro research behind Mistletoe, Hoxsey therapy, and IP6 is extremely exciting for potential cancer therapies, however, there is not the clinical research necessary to advise their use.
Faculty Mentor: Amy Olson, PhD, RD