Pros and cons at the health food store.Although claims for most products offered by the health-food industry have little or no scientific evidence to support their claims, not all are entirely without merit. Dr. Varro E. Tyler, professor of pharmacognosy pharmacognosy /phar·ma·cog·no·sy/ (fahr?mah-kog´nah-se) the branch of pharmacology dealing with natural drugs and their constituents.
n. at the Purdue University School of Pharmacy, West Lafayette, Indiana, speaks favorably of the following two herbal remedies:
Saw palmetto: The Seminole Indians originally used this extract of the Serenoa repens berry as an aphrodisiac. Although there is no evidence of its efficacy as such, it is widely used in Europe to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia benign prostatic hyperplasia
n. Abbr. BPH
A nonmalignant enlargement of the prostate gland commonly occurring in men after the age of 50, and sometimes leading to compression of the urethra and obstruction of the flow of urine. (BPH)--enlargement of the prostate common to the aging process--accounting for approximately 38 percent of all medications prescribed for BPH by Italian doctors. The herb appears to prevent the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone dihydrotestosterone /di·hy·dro·tes·tos·te·rone/ (DHT) (-tes-tos´te-ron) an androgenic hormone formed in peripheral tissue by the action of 5 on testosterone; thought to be the androgen responsible for development of male primary sex , a more potent form of the hormone that may trigger the prostate to grow.
Valerian valerian, in botany
valerian, common name for some members of the Valerianaceae, a family chiefly of herbs and shrubs of temperate and colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere; a few species, however, are native to the Andes. : Swiss researchers found that subjects given a pill containing this plentiful wild herb at bedtime fell asleep much faster and slept better than those given a placebo. It can be taken as an herb tea, prepared with a teaspoon (one to two grams) of the dried root, or with 200 to 300 milligrams of the extract containing 0.8 percent valerenic acid, available at most drugstores. Be warned, however, that it stinks!
While most products sold in health-food stores are harmless, some may not be:
Ephedra: A popular ingredient in nonprescription asthma drugs, this herb is often promoted as a muscle builder and weight-loss agent. There is no good evidence to support these claims, however, and long-term use may be harmful, especially with certain underlying medical conditions.
Any herb of the Eurasian genus Symphytum (borage family). Best known is the medicinal common comfrey (S. officinale), used to treat wounds and as a source of a gum used to treat wool. Traditionally it was also taken internally for various complaints. : Touted as an anti-balding agent, it contains agents known to cause cancer and obstruct blood flow in the liver. "This may be the worst concoction sold on the market," says Dr. Tyler. "I wouldn't ingest it for anything, yet many people do."
Yohimbe yohimbe (yō·himˑ·bē),
n Latin name:
Pausinystalia yohimbe; : Don't confuse this one with yohimbine yohimbine /yo·him·bine/ (yo-him´ben) an alkaloid chemically similar to reserpine, from the bark of the yohimbe tree; it possesses alpha-adrenergic blocking properties and is used as the hydrochloride as a sympatholytic and mydriatic, and , a legitimate prescription drug derived from the bark of an African tree and used to treat impotence. Sold as an aphrodisiac, yohimbe is potentially harmful. An overdose can lead to paralysis, stomach problems, and even death.