• HERB on HERBALS Part 4 of 5 Parts
  • 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. Herb on Herbals continues with part 4.
  • Let me start by saying that I am definitely not an expert on herbals. My perspective is that of a skeptical, professional, conservative, mainstream pulmonary physician, and my watchwords are "Prove to me that it is safe and effective before I put it into my body, or recommend it for you." I approach this task hoping to accommodate an attitude that herbals are complimentary rather than an alternative to conventional medications. Over the past months, I've written about logically examining herbal supplementation.
  • "Don't you have ANYTHING good to say about natural products?" Yes, of course, I do. Remember, my view is from a scientific standpoint, and although you can find many people who will tell you subjectively that taking herb X does wonders for them, I'm discussing objective evaluation. So here are some good examples of positive study results that will be of interest.
  • First, for decades, Grandma has said that cranberry juice will prevent urinary tract infections. This is especially important for a large percent of women over the age of 65 since this group statistically gets about one urinary tract infection a year. Not only was this proven to be true in elderly women in a well-done randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial, but in addition, we know the mechanism of how it works! It really has a scientific basis now. Although it was previously thought that cranberry juice acidified the urine, hence improving bacterial clearance, it's now known that in fact specific compounds in cranberry and blueberry juice inhibit the adhesion of bacteria to the bladder wall. Just cranberry and blueberry juices, not other fruit juices. And you can even get this benefit from the low calorie version of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice cocktail. I recommend this for anyone with recurrent urinary tract infections and for women over the age of 65.
  • Here's another good story. Great attention has been given to the nutraceuticals glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Anti-arthritic effects in animals are now widely known. Multiple studies have been done which include symptomatic and well as objectively measured X-ray findings, such as progression of joint space narrowing. Some degree of efficacy is probably due to these preparations but you must be alert to the possibility that they may not be manufactured correctly or consistently. Also, don't expect positive benefits in less than 4 to 6 weeks. Thus far, these preparations appear to be safe, but only short-term studies have been done.
  • HERBS TO BREATHE BETTER:
  • Next, let's consider some respiratory-related herbal issues.
  • Zinc preparations have been well studied and do not modify the duration or severity of the common cold.
  • Old fashioned, or first generation antihistamines, such as over-the-counter Dimetapp, Chlortrimeton and Tavist, are effective at modifying nasal symptoms of the common cold, whereas modern day antihistamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin are not.
  • Vitamin C does NOT prevent nor modify the common cold.
  • Echinacea does not prevent the common cold, but it might diminish the magnitude and duration of symptoms. But don't take Echinacea for longer than 7 to 10 days, as chronic immune stimulation can lead to cancer. And I already mentioned that Echinacea interferes with the effectiveness of birth control pills.
  • There is no evidence that Gingko Biloba modifies asthma. Magnesium is probably not effective in treating asthma.
  • Don't take cough drops containing menthol or peppermint, both of which will make gastroesophageal reflux worse. GERD is very frequently a cause of cough anyhow, and additionally taking these cough drops, will make asthma worse.
  • Do not take Ma-Huang for asthma or anything else. It is derived from ephedra plants, and ephedrine is no longer prescribed by responsible physicians because of the much safer and more effective agents such as Albuterol, Terbutaline (Brethine) and Salmeterol (Serevent).
  • Thanks again to Dr. Webb for yet another wonderful article crammed with interesting information. Are you looking forward to Part 5? Unfortunately it will be the last in this series so be sure to watch for, "OK, then, what SHOULD I take?"
  • HERB'S CURRENT RECOMMENDATIONS ON COMPLIMENTARY THERAPIES' which you can read in next month's newsletter.