JAMA Publishes Articles on St. John's Wort Interactions, Claims for Herbs on the Internet, and an Editorial on Herbs

Austin, TX -

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is publishing two articles and an editorial on herbs in tomorrow's issue (Wednesday, September 17, 2003). The articles are embargoed for release Tuesday afternoon, September 16, at 4:00 pm EDT.

The three articles are:

1. "Effect of St. John's Wort on Drug Metabolism"

2. "Internet Marketing of Herbal Products"

3. "Drugs Alias vs. Dietary Supplements" -- editorial

The first is a study on SJW interactions with isozymes in the cytochrome P450 system of gut and hepatic digestive enzymes. It may generate some negative media coverage about the risks of taking SJW with drugs, since about half of conventional drugs are metabolized by various isozymes in the P450 system. The interactions of SJW with conventional drugs has become an issue of increased awareness among consumer, healthcare practitioners and industry members.

The second is a survey showing drug/disease claims on the Web for 8 of the most popular herbs. The authors reviewed 443 websites and found 338 that sold herbs retail, with 273 making at least one or more "health claims" and 149 sites containing claims that go beyond the structure/function claims allowed under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). While it is clear that herb marketers are not allowed to make drug claims for their products, it is also known that there is a growing body of clinical literature that often supports the uses of various herbal preparations for disease treatment and/or prevention purposes, despite the fact that herbs are not evaluated and regulated as drugs in the U.S. It is likely that the news coverage on this article will once again raise the often erroneously repeated media statement that herbs are an "unregulated industry," despite significant regulations empowering both the FDA and FTC to regulate non-truthful and inappropriate claims, and despite FDA's and FTC's recently increased regulatory activities in this area.

The third article is an editorial by JAMA editors stating that herbs are really forms of drugs and should be regulated in the same system as that used by FDA for conventional medications, even while acknowledging that FDA does not appear to have sufficient funding available to adequately regulate the safety of conventional drugs. As ABC has stated many times in the past, we believe that herbs should be evaluated for their therapeutic properties according to a system that is rational and science-based, and that takes into account their particular nuances and differences from conventional medications. This is one of the reasons ABC translated and published The Complete German Commission E Monographs - Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines in 1998. ABC proposed the Commission E system as an effective and rational model of evaluation of herb safety and efficacy, conducted according to a standard of "reasonable certainty" in the assessment of efficacy. ABC believes it is neither appropriate nor cost effective nor in the public interest to require herbs to be evaluated for safety and efficacy under the same procedures as synthetic pharmaceutical drugs.

About the American Botanical Council

The American Botanical Council is the nation's leading nonprofit organization addressing research and educational issues regarding herbs and medicinal plants. The 14-year-old organization occupies a 2.5 acre campus in Austin, Texas where it publishes HerbalGram, a peer-reviewed journal on herbal medicine, and published in 2003 a book and continuing education course for healthcare professionals, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. In 1998 ABC published The Complete German Commission E Monographs, a 715-page reference book that was ranked second of all medical books published that year. Information contact: ABC at P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, ph: 512-926-4900, fax: 512-926-2345. Website:


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