German Institute urges consumers to be more critical of health claims.
Many people use “alternative” or complementary products because they see them as a more gentle form of medicine.
The German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care has now analysed the latest research on several products and released the results along with a guide for consumers.
St John’s wort (hypericum), for example, could help ease mild depression, but it does not help with severe depression.
It also probably cannot help with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) might help relieve PMS. On the other hand, evening primrose oil has not been proven to help.
Herbal medicines and dietary supplements can also have risks. “Consumers need to be more critical of all health claims,” according to the Institute’s Director, Professor Peter Sawicki.
Just because a product is made from a plant or vitamins, it does not mean it is necessarily safe in very high doses or for frequent use. And not all medicinal products can provide as much relief as patients expect.”
All treatments and products should face the same scientific standards for effectiveness and safety.
Patients need to consider several questions before choosing any treatment, including a dietary supplement.