Detox scams

October 12, 2010

It seems there are advertisements everywhere for various types of “detox” that will improve your health, make you lose weight, and more. But what does “detox” really do?

Any time I see the word “detox”, my scam alert radar kicks in (to be fair, maybe some people offering detox treatments aren’t scammers, and are merely deluded). These treatments are generally based on the concept of some undefined “toxins” being the source of all your problems, without ever defining what these toxins are supposed to be.

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Regulation of natural products

August 5, 2010

Related to my previous post – there was a good article today on natural product regulation in Canada vs. the US at Science-Based Medicine.

Why herbal medicines need to be treated as drugs

July 28, 2010

There is a tendency among some people to assume that herbal medicines are safe, since they’re “natural”. However, those that work (many are found not to work when they’re actually studied properly) act because a chemical in the herbal medicine has an effect on the body, just like any pharmaceutical drug. Since many pharmaceutical drugs were derived from herbal medicines, you would think this would be evident, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from assuming they’re safe.

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, natural products are often available without consulting a medical doctor. They also are not subject to the same level of regulation and control; most not only haven’t been properly tested to see if they work, but also haven’t undergone rigorous safety studies. Furthermore, the purity and potency of these products generally aren’t regulated [1]; as a result the dose of the active chemical is often unknown (and in some cases it isn’t always present), and contamination of herbal products or misidentification of plants have been reported [2]. The natural products industry has aggressively resisted regulation in Canada and many other countries, however.

I’m not suggesting all herbal products are dangerous; many have been used for a long time without obvious adverse effects (though chronic effects can’t be ruled out without proper testing). However, one concern that probably doesn’t get as much attention as it should is the potential for drug interactions, some of which can be lethal. This risk is compounded by these products being available without consulting a doctor – often a doctor doesn’t know which herbal products a person is taking.

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