Herbs at a Glance

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements (Photo credit: Andrei Z)


Excerpted from the National Center for Complementary &Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Publication Herbs at a glance: A quick guide to herbal substances, 2010.

In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 adults—or over 38 million people—reported using a natural product, such as herbs, for health purposes in a 2007 survey. Among the top 10 natural products used were several botanicals covered in this booklet: echinacea, flaxseed, ginseng, ginkgo, and garlic.

People have used herbs as medicine since ancient times. For example, aloe vera’s use can be traced back to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the “plant of immortality,” it was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. Lavender, native to the Mediterranean region, was used in ancient Egypt as part of the process for mummifying bodies. Chasteberry, the fruit of the chaste tree, has long been used by women to ease menstrual problems and to stimulate the production of breast milk. Cat’s claw, which grows wild in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon rainforest, has been used for centuries to prevent and treat disease. Hoodia, a flowering, cactus-like plant native to the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, has been used by the Kalahari Bushmen to reduce hunger and thirst during long hunts.

Herbs still play a part in the health practices of many countries and cultures. Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India, uses herbs, plants, oils, common spices(such as ginger and turmeric), and other naturally occurring substances. Traditional Chinese medicine uses herbs such as astragalus, bitter orange, and ginkgo for various health conditions. Herbs are also an important part of Native American healing traditions. Dandelion and goldenseal are examples of herbs used by Native Americans for different health conditions.

NCCAM’s Research on Herbs

While millions of Americans use herbal supplements, much remains to be learned about their safety and effectiveness. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health is the Federal Government’s lead agency for studying all types of complementary and alternative medicine, including herbal supplements. This research covers a wide range of studies—from laboratory-based research studying how herbs might affect the body, to large clinical trials testing their use in people, such as studying ginkgo’s effects on memory in older adults, or whether St. John’s wort may help people with minor depression. Exploring how and why botanicals act in the body is an important step in evaluating their safety and effectiveness.

A word about safety

Although herbs have been used for thousands of years as natural medicines, natural does not always mean safe. Herbs can act in your body in ways similar to prescription drugs, and herbs may have side effects. They may also affect how your body responds to prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines you take—possibly decreasing or increasing their effects.

How are herbal supplements regulated?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates herbal and other dietary supplements differently from conventional medicines. The standards of safety and effectiveness that prescription and over-the-counter medicines have to meet before they are marketed do not apply to supplements. The standards for supplements are found in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), a Federal law that defines dietary supplements and sets product-labeling standards and health claim limits. To learn more about DSHEA, visit the FDA Web site at www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/ .

Use Caution

If you are considering or using an herbal supplement, think about these points:

• Some herbal supplements are known to interact with medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter). For example, St. John’s wort can interact with birth control pills.

• Research has shown that what’s listed on the label of an herbal supplement may not be what’s in the bottle. You may be getting less—or more—of an ingredient than the label indicates, even if it uses the word “standardized” or “certified.” Many factors, including manufacturing and storage methods, can affect the contents of an herbal product.

• Some herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with metals, unlabeled prescription drugs, microorganisms, or other substances.

• If you use herbal supplements, it is best to do so under the guidance of a medical professional who has been properly trained in herbal medicine. This is especially important for herbs that are part of a whole medical system, such as traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine.

• Women who are pregnant or nursing should be especially cautious about using herbal supplements. This caution also applies to giving children herbal supplements.

Talk to Your Health Care Providers

Be an informed consumer. Tell all of your health care providers about any herbs or supplements you are using or considering. Your health care providers need a full picture of everything you do to manage your health, including all complementary and alternative medicine practices. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. It is especially important if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications that could interact with an herbal supplement.

If you would like the full text of this publication, it is in the public domain and available at no cost at http://nccam.nih.gov/health/herbsataglance.htm

If you would like to read this entire booklet and receive one hour of continuing education credit, visit Professional Development Resources at https://pdresources.org/course/index/1/1097/Alternative-Therapies-Herbs-I-What-Every-Clinician-Should-Know


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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day is observed annually on October 24. It is part of an effort designed to increase public awareness of the progress, promise, and benefits of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine DayAn estimated 36% of U.S. adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to a survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a component of the National Institutes of Health. When megavitamin therapy and prayer specifically for health reasons is included in the definition of CAM, the number of U.S. adults using some form of CAM in the past year rises to 62%. Among the common CAM practices identified by the survey were acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine, tai chi and qi gong.

A survey by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine found that approximately one in ten adults had received acupuncture at least one time and 60% said they would readily consider acupuncture as a potential treatment option. Nearly half (48%) of the individuals surveyed who had received acupuncture reported that they were extremely satisfied or very satisfied with their treatment. In addition, one in five (21%) of the total NCCAOM survey respondents reported that they had utilized some other form of Oriental medicine besides acupuncture, such as herbs or bodywork (e.g., shiatsu).

These studies and others like them clearly demonstrate that CAM therapies such as acupuncture and Oriental medicine are common practice in today’s health care system. They also support the need for consumers to be provided accurate and reliable information regarding their treatment options. Source: http://www.aomday.org/

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Acupuncture – An Introduction

New 1-Hour Online CE Course

Acupuncture – An Introduction

CE Credit: 1 Hours (0.1 CEUs)
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, MFTs, OTs, RDs
Learning Level: Introductory

Course Abstract:

This course is divided into two parts. Part I – “Introduction to Acupuncture” – provides an overview of acupuncture

Acupuncture – An Introduction

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as presented by a fact sheet from NCCAM and includes a number of video clips illustrating its use. Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world. As part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture aims to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body. In the United States, where practitioners incorporate healing traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries, acupuncture is considered part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Part II – “Acupuncture for Pain” – is also a fact sheet from NCCAM. Physical pain is a common occurrence for many Americans; in fact, a national survey found that more than one-quarter of U.S. adults had recently experienced some sort of pain lasting more than a day. In addition to conventional treatments, such as over-the-counter and prescription medications, people may try acupuncture in an effort to relieve pain. This fact sheet provides basic information about pain and acupuncture, summarizes scientific research on acupuncture for specific kinds of pain, and suggests sources for additional information. It also includes a video clip.

Course #10-47 | 2011 | 16 pages | 10 posttest questions

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the fundamental procedure that is involved in acupuncture
  2. Identify the concepts of “balanced” and “unbalanced” states in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
  3. List cautions to observe when seeking a qualified acupuncture practitioner
  4. Identify conditions for which there is scientific evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture
  5. List complications that can occur as a consequence of improper delivery of acupuncture treatments

About the Author(s):

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/

Accreditation Statement:

Professional Development Resources is recognized as a provider of continuing education by the following:
AOTA: American Occupational Therapy Association (#3159)
APA: American Psychological Association
ASWB: Association of Social Work Boards (#1046)
CDR: Commission on Dietetic Registration (#PR001)
NBCC: National Board for Certified Counselors (#5590)
NAADAC: National Association of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselors (#00279)
California: Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625)
Florida: Boards of SW, MFT & MHC (#BAP346); Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635); Occupational Therapy Practice (#34). PDResources is CE Broker compliant.
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New CE Courses Address Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

new CE courses address complementary and alternative medicine

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We (Professional Development Resources) have expanded our course catalog to include a variety of new continuing education (CE) courses dealing with various aspects of complementary and alternative medicine. New topics include mindfulness meditation, yoga as medicine, self-healing through breathing exercises, and the use of herbal medicines. The courses are intended to introduce health professionals to the healing power of traditional approaches to health and wellness.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM), defining complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is not easy. It is generally considered to be a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. “Complementary medicine” refers to use of CAM together with conventional medicine, such as using acupuncture in addition to usual care to help lessen pain. “Alternative medicine” refers to use of CAM in place of conventional medicine. “Integrative medicine” (also called integrated medicine) refers to a practice that combines both conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness.

“We think it is important for clinicians to be familiar with these approaches for two reasons,” says Leo Christie, PhD, CEO of Professional Development Resources. “First, many of the clients we see are using such treatments, so we need to know about them. A recent survey indicated that about 38% of adult Americans use CAM. Are the treatments safe? Do they work? We need to worry about interactions between certain herbal supplements and prescription medications. Second, researchers are starting to produce a body of scientific evidence on the efficacy of complementary and alternative approaches. As new and effective treatments become available, we need to be in a position to discuss them with our clients.”

Among the new courses offered are:

Christie adds “we emphasize in our courses that – as with any medical treatment – there can be risks with CAM therapies.” These general precautions from NCAAM can help to minimize risks:

  • Select CAM practitioners with care. Find out about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Be aware that some dietary supplements may interact with medications or other supplements, may have side effects of their own, or may contain potentially harmful ingredients not listed on the label. Also keep in mind that most supplements have not been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use.
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