Wort warning

May 20th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, dangers, herbal remedies, homeopathy | 2 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday May 20, 2004
The Guardian

· People often ask why I get so grumpy about the lack of intellectual rigour in alternative medicine. “What’s so bad,” they say, “about people believing whatever they want, if it makes them feel better?” What’s so bad is that sometimes, when people mix and match ideas, and believe that “natural” means “safe”, they can concoct some pretty dangerous suggestions.

Over to Richard Brook, chief executive of mental health charity Mind. “Prozac or cognitive behavioural therapy?” the Independent asked him last week. “CBT every time,” he replied, and fair enough. “I’m a strong supporter of non-medicated approaches, which also include exercise, improving social contacts, diet” he said. Excellent advice so far. “And possibly homeopathic remedies such as St John’s Wort.”

Now, homeopathic remedies are pretty close to pure water, and that’s not going to do you any good or any harm. But St John’s Wort contains a drug that is very similar to Prozac, which can interact dangerously with many antidepressants and numerous other medications. And unfortunately, as they say, not a lot of people know that. Researchers at King’s College London questioned 929 people, visiting four pharmacies in London, and found that when they asked people which medicines they were taking, 41% did not mention herbal remedies, because they did not think of them as medicines. Seven per cent were taking potentially dangerous combinations of herbal remedies and prescription medicines, and the most common was taking St John’s Wort at the same time as SSRIs, the class of antidepressants that includes Prozac. What’s more, taking St John’s Wort with the oral contraceptive pill can cause side effects and stop the pill working. Even pharmacists can believe the hype. In 21 visits to buy St John’s Wort, five Which? researchers were given unsatisfactory advice, twice they didn’t need to see a pharmacist, and one pharmacist said it was “fine to take with the pill”.

· About a quarter of prescription drugs are derived from plant sources and just because something comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s safe. Aspirin comes from willow bark, but it will still make your haemorrhoids bleed. Diamorphine was made from opium poppy extract, in the same lab as aspirin, by the same bloke, two weeks later, using the same process (acetylation), 107 years ago this summer, since you ask. Diamorphine is also known as heroin, and although it’s undoubtedly effective, it has a few side effects that might worry you.

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Responses

  1. wayscj said,

    November 21, 2009 at 7:17 am

    ed hardy ed hardy
    ed hardy clothing ed hardy clothing
    ed hardy shop ed hardy shop
    christian audigier christian audigier
    ed hardy cheap ed hardy cheap
    ed hardy outlet ed hardy outlet
    ed hardy sale ed hardy sale
    ed hardy store ed hardy store
    ed hardy mens ed hardy mens
    ed hardy womens ed hardy womens
    ed hardy kids ed hardy kids ed hardy kids

  2. jijisun said,

    November 25, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Shakespeare was born and raised in the picturesque cheap handbags Tudor market town of Stratford-on-Avon, a local government and commercial center within a larger rural setting, and it is likely that the surrounding woodlands of his boyhood cheap designer bags were reflected in the play As You Like It, with its Forest of Arden. Shakespeare’s mother Mary Arden was a daughter of the local gentry, holding extensive properties cheap designer handbags around Stratford-on-Avon in his name. In marrying Shakespeare’s father, the glover and tenant farmer John Shakespeare, Mary Arden took a step down the social replica louis vuitton ladder of the Elizabethan Age, for her husband was of the yeoman class, a notch or two below the gentry. Yet long before his son’s fame as a playwright fell to his good designer handbags fortune, John Shakespeare’s talents enabled him to rise modestly on his own accord as he became a burgess member of the town council. Despite evidence of a family financial setback when William was fifteen, Shakespeare’s family was designer replica bags comfortable, if not privileged. Shakespeare’s eventual fame and success spilled over to his parents in the form of both money and title, and on the eve of his death in 1601, Queen Elizabeth louis vuitton replica granted the Bard’s father a “gentleman’s” family endoscope coat-of-arms.