Current Medical Research and Opinion

Using herbs medically without knowing their composition: are we playing Russian roulette?

Orly F Kohn, Susie Q Lew, Steve Siu-Man Wong, Ramin Sam, Hung-Chun Chen, Jochen G Raimann, David J Leehey, Antonios H Tzamaloukas, Todd S Ing


Herbal medicine, a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), is used throughout the world, in both developing and developed countries. The ingredients in herbal medicines are not standardized by any regulatory agency. Variability exists in the ingredients as well as in their concentrations. Plant products may become contaminated with bacteria and fungi during storage. Therefore, harm can occur to the kidney, liver, and blood components after ingestion. We encourage scientific studies to identify the active ingredients in herbs and to standardize their concentrations in all herbal preparations. Rigorous studies need to be performed in order to understand the effect of herbal ingredients on different organ systems as well as these substances' interaction with other medications.

About the Author

Dr. Peter Kotanko, MD

RRI Research Director

SVP, Corporate Research & Development

Peter Kotanko, MD, is Research Director at the Renal Research Institute (RRI), New York. Prior to joining RRI, from 1997 to 2007 he served as vice chair of a department of internal medicine at an academic teaching hospital in Graz, Austria. Prior to moving to Graz in 1989, he worked from 1982 to 1989 in the Department of Physiology and the University Clinic of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria. From 1995 to 1996 he trained in nephrology at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.

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