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ABC Executive Director Provides Tips for Choosing Herbal Supplements in Los Angeles Times Article

(February 22, 2006) The American Botanical Council’s Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal was interviewed for an article printed in the Monday, February 20th edition of the Health of the Los Angeles Times.  The article is based on a presentation he made at a conference on dietary supplements at Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California in January. The title of the talk, as requested by the conference organizers, was “Identifying High Quality Herbal Dietary Supplements -- Documenting Quality and Efficacy.”

In the article, by LA Times health reporter Hilary MacGregor, who attended the Scripps conference and then followed up with Blumenthal in a phone interview,   Blumenthal shares tips for consumers when deciding which specific brands of herbal supplements may be the ones to purchase.

He emphasized that quality and efficacy are two key factors, noting the relative safety of most herbal supplements are reasonably well established.

Regarding quality, he noted that there are many quality products on the U.S. market, but the consumer confusion and the lack of effective regulatory enforcement by the Food and Drug Administration in this area have given rise to at least four different third-party groups who provide emblems or logos that are affixed to many products. These logos denote that the company’s manufacturing practices and/or the specific herbal product have met certain criteria to ensure quality control and product integrity.

Blumenthal also emphasized in his presentation to those in attendance at Scripps (mostly physicians and healthcare professionals) that as healthcare professionals, they would obviously want to know which products and ingredients have been clinically tested.

He emphasized that the key to choosing the right product comes from researching the herb and the company that makes the herb preparation to find out which products have been tested and what studies have been conducted.  Blumenthal provided several Internet-based sources to find this information (including ABC’s HerbClip and The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs).  He also noted in the speech and interview that there are many companies who make high quality products who do not subscribe to any of the four third-party verification programs described in his speech (and in an article published in HerbalGram 64 in 2004), and also, that there are presumably many high-quality, reliable herb products which have not undergone clinical testing.

In his interview, he emphasized that self-medication requires self-education. His advice for those wanting to try herbal supplements was to use them responsibly, and “just as you would an over the counter medication: Follow directions.” 

The full text of the LA Times article is available at: http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-herbqanda20feb20,1,6902203.story?coll=la-headlines-health.