How safe is your complementary medicine?
Do you use complementary medicines? If so you’re not alone – two thirds of the Australian population reported use of complementary medicines and therapies such as clinical nutrition, naturopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicine and acupuncture. But do you know how safe your CM is? What are the possible side effects and the interactions with other supplements or medications? (For example, did you know that St John’s Wort interacts with the contraceptive pill and has led to contraceptive failures – i.e. unwanted pregnancies?)
Access to reliable information can be difficult, as the Web is swamped with websites of widely varying quality, and many of these “information sources” have a vested financial interest.
I’m writing an article on GPs communicating with their patients about complementary medicine use, and have collated a list of reliable, evidence-based and up-to-date sources of information on CM safety and effectiveness. As a general rule, I recommend sites that use appropriate scientific evidence and are independent (e.g. not sponsored by a herbal supplement company). I’m sharing these with you for your knowledge and use, and perhaps you could bring these to the attention of your GP or family physician too :)
Reliable sources of information on complementary medicine
The National Institutes of Health in the USA have compiled a wonderful site called Medline Plus where you can look up the safety and effectiveness of conventional and complementary medicines.
For evidence-based information on CM treatments like chiropractic, check out the NIH’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine site.
The Integrative Medicine Centre at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center provides evidence-based information on a comprehensive range of herbs.
The University of Maryland Medical Centre has a long history of providing excellent information on complementary medicines. Here you will find detailed information on treatment of common medical conditions (including conventional treatment and lifestyle changes) as well as advice on herb and supplement use.
The Linus Pauling Research Institute at the University of Oregon provides a comprehensive review of the evidence for micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals and phytochemicals).
Don’t forget to always tell your GP or family doctor about your complementary medicine use, and always check the dosage and safety of the medicines you are using.