• HERB on HERBALS
  • "OK, then, what SHOULD I take?"
  • PART 5 of 5 parts, HERB'S CURRENT RECOMMENDATIONS ON COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
  • by Herbert Webb, MD Pulmonologist
  • Dr. Herbert Webb is a pulmonologist in private practice in San Pedro, CA, and an illustrious graduate of the program at Harbor-UCLA. He is Medical Director of the San Pedro Peninsula Hospital Pulmonary Medicine Department and their Pulmonary Rehabilitation program. He wrote this article for their Better Breathers' Club newsletter. With the gracious permission of Editor Kris Brust, RN, and Dr. Webb, we share it with you.
  • As I said in earlier articles, it's easy to understand why more and more people want to prescribe their own remedies - it's cheaper and faster, and certainly a powerful thing to do, even if there is a frustrating lack of any solid scientific studies to back claims of cures. I have also discussed lack of manufacturing standards and studies for many herbal remedies, and also talked about some real catastrophes that occurred because of haste to find "magic cures".
  • I'm definitely not an expert on herbals, so my skepticism and conservative medical background might leave you feeling as if the message is "I know what's best and I'll do it for you, I need to be in control all the way". Not so. I, and most of my colleagues, encourage you to take an active role in your health care. In fact, with all the changes in health care today, you can't afford to sit back and go along for the ride - you must ask questions and become involved with your medical care. But to me, this means talking frankly to your doctor about your concerns, learning as much as you can about any health care problems you may have, and working as part of your health care team.
  • So, for patients who wish to take an active role in their health care, here are my recommendations, based on solid science and a lot of research.
  • THE DO'S---
  • Get lots of bioflavinoids (Vitamins A, C, and E), but get them in your diet through nature's wisdom and not through some manufactured products. Bioflavinoids are found in bright yellow, red, orange and green leafy vegetables and fruits.
  • Take 1200 to 1500 milligrams of Calcium a day, preferably in a preparation of calcium citrate, rather than calcium carbonate. Also take Vitamin D 200 IU if you are under 50 and 400 IU if you are 51 to 70 years of age. If you're over 70, take 600 IU of Vitamin D a day.
  • If you are a childbearing age female, take folic acid constantly at more than 200 micrograms per day and if you are pregnant or nursing, take 400 mcg. If you are over the age of 65, you should probably be taking 200 mcg of folic acid and 3 mcg of vitamin B12 per day.
  • Take a multivitamin if you wish, but don't take too many of them. It should include the above, plus Vitamin B6 at about 2 mg.
  • If you are prone to urinary tract infections or are an older female, go ahead and eat plain cranberrries, or drink cranberry juice, but NOT an herbal preparation.
  • This next recommendation regarding Vitamin E has changed since June of 2002, so heads up. Previously there was suggestion by several studies, that Vitamin E might decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and even improve mortality. None of the studies were very well done, so the data was never convincing. But we DO now know this: Vitamin E adversely affects your HDL cholesterol. For years, we've discussed a good HLD cholesterol and a bad LDL cholesterol. Things are a little more complex than that - there are several subcomponents of the good HDL and so it turns out there is a bad HDL type cholesterol as well as a good HDL. And unfortunately, Vitamin E converts the good HDL into the bad HDL, so everybody should stop taking supplements of Vitamin E completely. Several noted locations state this and several very well known preventive cardiologists have stopped taking the Vitamin E themselves.
  • The newest studies suggest Vitamin E turns good cholesterol into bad cholesterol, so I recommend you stop taking Vitamin E supplements.
  • Selenium for men (200 mcg) per day may be beneficial in the prevention of prostate cancer.
  • Glucoasmine may help if you have osteoarthritis, but be aware it contains glucose, so if you have diabetes mellitus it will perhaps worsen the control for your diabetes. Studies suggest that it is probably effective. You must, however, wait a month for the symptomatic benefit. There are no studies on the safety of this taken in long duration.
  • Although this article is not really about diet, I recommend eating lots of fish as a source of omega 3 fatty acids other than separate preparations of them at this time.
  • Probably everyone should take low dose aspirin at 81 mg per day if you are over the age of 55 or 60. You should obviously NOT take aspirin if you are an aspirin sensitive asthmatic or have poorly controlled gout.
  • Spend your time walking outdoors and enjoy it for more than 30 minutes daily instead of walking around food stores looking for "miracle" nutrients.
  • THE DONT'S---
  • Don't take Beta carotene at all.
  • Don't take excess Vitamin A, Vitamin D or Vitamin B6.
  • Don't take any herbals manufactured in Asiatic countries. These may contain poisonous heavy metals.
  • Don't take grapefruit juice in any form if you are taking medications, unless your physician has cleared this by specific analysis. The same goes for Echinacea.
  • Don't take any herbals whatsoever if you are on Coumadin. This is especially true for Gingko Biloba, Ginseng and garlic.
  • Beware that any herbal can potentially have an interaction with any prescription medication. For example, many herbals impair the clotting of the blood, and can lead to hemorrhage during surgery. Herbals can also lead to protracted unconsciousness or sedation after general anesthesia for surgery. So, don't take any herbals within 3 to 4 weeks of surgery.
  • And this final piece of advice from Dr. Webb.
  • Don't kid yourself into thinking, "If it's herbal, it's safe!"
  • We hope that you have found this series of articles as helpful as we have. We really appreciate the generosity of both Kris Brust and Dr. Webb in sharing this series with us and are only sorry that it is ending. Thanks from all of us!