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Herbs: Growing Recognition ~ [Issue 0400-3]  Wellness Weekly
 Apr 18, 2000 10:48 PDT 


European and Asian countries have long histories of using herbs.
Slowly, the United States has been coming up to speed. Representative
Peter DeFazio, addressing the Government Reform and Oversight
Committee in 1998, lamented the slow rate of progress relative to our
foreign counterparts. As most herbal materials are not patentable in
the U.S. and corporate sponsorship of major studies is consequently
minimal, herbal supporters have advocated a stronger effort from the
U.S. government. Under the jurisdiction of the National Institutes of
Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine has received funding and is sponsoring a limited number of
trials regarding herbal and other alternative medicines. One example
is a current three-year study on Saint Johns Wort. On another front,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture has established numerous support
and research groups, including the Natural Products Utilization
Research Unit, whose mission is in part to support development of
medicinal plants as alternative farm crops.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an agency in a position
separate and parallel to the National Institutes of Health, will be
meeting with industry, consumer, and health advocates, in continuing
efforts to place tighter restrictions on claims and on broadening the
public's access to information regarding herbs. Pursuant to the
Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, these are
generally classified in the U.S. as dietary supplements. More and
more consumers are becoming aware of dietary supplements and their
own need for self-education, spending, by some estimates, close to $4
billion in 1999 on herbs and related botanicals. Recent polls show
over 90 percent of physicians and pharmacists have also been made
aware of this consumer interest in herbal supplements over the past
several years. Aiding physicians in responding to patient-initiated
questions regarding herbs, there is now a PDR (Physicians' Desk
Reference) for Herbal Medicines providing brief summaries of
descriptions and usages for many domestic herbs.
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