Regulation of Herbal Supplements

By Nastya Petrovitch

The FDA should regulate herbal supplements as it ensures safety for the consumer. If taken properly, herbal supplements have great benefits. The problem is that there simply is not enough regulation of the herbal supplements. Many herbal supplements can be dangerous if taken incorrectly. What’s worse, people simply do not have enough information about the benefits and risks of herbal supplements. A great example of the lack of regulation is overuse of Ephedra. A while back, people started taking mass amounts of Ephedra in order to lose weight. It ended in a great amount of deaths, causing the FDA to take measures against makers of medicines containing Ephedra. Because it was considered an herbal supplement, it did not have the same scrutiny as synthetic drugs. Herbal supplements can be just as powerful as synthetic drugs, so the same vigilance in regulation should apply.

Also, harmful ingredients sometimes end up in herbal supplements, which present an entirely new risk. If herbal supplements were more closely monitored, there would be a better chance of preventing this from happening. Because of the lack of regulation, consumers do not have any assurance that what they are buying is safe. Consumers need that assurance, especially when it comes to health products.

There also is not very much awareness about herbal supplements. People do not realize how powerful some herbal supplements are. Many people hold the mistaken belief that herbal supplements are safe because they are ‘natural.’ That simply is not true. Arsenic is a natural substance, and nobody would consider that safe, showing that simply being natural does not guarantee any measure of safety. If there was more awareness of the effects, it would lessen misuse. Regulating them ensures that things like proper warnings are displayed prominently. Herbal supplements have been used for centuries and are the foundation for modern medicine. But like traditional medicine, it needs to be regulated in order to allow consumers to enjoy the benefits.

Links for more information:

FDA plans more scrutiny of supplements. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/diet.fitness/01/20/fda.supplements/index.html

Journal gives stern warning on unproven dietary supplements. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9809/17/herbal.warning/

Unregulated dietary supplements can be risky. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9802/22/supplement.safety/

Arsenic Found in Herbal Kelp Supplements in Health Highlights: April 5, 2007. Washington Post. http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9802/22/supplement.safety/

Dieters seek alternatives to ephedra. MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3940618/

Originally posted at Nastya Petroyvitch’s blog, http://www.progressiveu.org/blog/candy7468  

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