Q: We look at issues like menopause or mental health from a pathological perspective now. Is this a problem?
A: I think we have to be careful about pathologizing a lot of life’s normal events. I say that in both the realm of supplements and prescription drugs—now there’s a pill for everything, whether it’s a dietary supplement or a pharmaceutical drug.
Women’s issues are very interesting. I think society has turned many normal life events such as pregnancy or menopause into problems that women are told require medical management. I definitely believe this with mental heath as well—when I was a kid they called it shyness, and now it’s social anxiety disorder and there are treatments for it. In many cases, mental heath and some of our emotions and behaviors are a part of biology and part of the economic, environmental and social aspects that really affect out lives. I don’t see this changing in the near future. I think we invest a lot of money into medical science and how we can create problems or treat problems with a drug. The supplement industry certainly rides off that as well.
Q: What would you like to see in supplements?
A: I would like labels that are easier to read. I take medical students and residents and fellows out to heath food stores regularly. [We’ll see things] like ginger rhizome extract, 250 mg. But what is the strength of the extract equivalent to the crude herb? The dose ranges are all over the board, and as we make more concentrated phytopharmaceutical products, I think it becomes more and more difficult to know how concentrated the product is.
–Interview by Anna Soref