In recent months, the Journal of the American Medical Association has published two studies that give botanicals a low mark for desired outcomes whether gingko for cognitive decline or herb and drug interactions. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and American Botanical Council found numerous errors in both studies including outdated research, non-compliance from study participants and a lack of distinction in the specific genus of ginseng used in the study.
The most often cited reason for poor outcomes is the need for more regulatory oversight from FDA. In the February issue of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Drs C Tsourounis and S Bent call for changes to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in the article, "Why Change Is Needed in Research Examining Dietary Supplements." Botanical experts say that regulatory changes won't solve the inherent issue—a deep lack of scientific knowledge. What is needed they say is for well designed studies that rely on botanical experts with deep level knowledge in the use, efficacy and nuances of botanicals.
Steven Dentali MD, AHPA's Chief Science Officer argues, "Scientific interest of well-known botanicals declined in the U.S. during the middle decades of the 20th century as the use of medical herbs fall out of fashion within the medical community." He explains that it will take some time to reestablish our forgotten familiarity with them.
"Every field of scientific inquiry and exploration is defined by expertise put into practice," said Dr. Dentali. "The current challenge in botanical research is to involve experts who understand botanical preparations in the context of modern medical investigative approaches."
Listen to this podcast for more on the topic. Dentali and William Gurley, PHD discuss the safety and efficacy of botanicals and a point/counterpoint to a call for changes to the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics.