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A lot of “natural” or complementary medicines and practices sound more appealing to patients than drugs with fancy chemical names.  But the question is—do they do any good? Do they, perhaps, rather do harm? Even seemingly harmless ingredients (grapefruit juice, green coffee extract) can have dangerous effects when combined with other necessary medications or complicating conditions. And then there’s the placebo effect, the often-studied quandary that any medicine or technique, if the patient is told it will be effective, will be for a certain percentage of the time.

The database Natural Standard (available to CRRL cardholders at www.librarypoint.org/research) takes on this dilemma and provides additional helpful information besides. According to its site’s statement, Natural Standard is impartial—not supported by any interest group, professional organization or product manufacturer. 

Its Foods, Herbs & Supplements section gives the background of the substances and lays out scientific studies backing up their effectiveness—if there are any—and grades the studies’ evidence. An “A” grade on their site means there is strong, positive, scientific evidence for its effectiveness, according to available scientific data.  A ”C” grade, listed for many herbal remedies that may be found at chain drug and mega stores, means that the scientific evidence is unclear. And, yes, there are substances ranked “F” for strong negative scientific evidence.

Herbs with wooden mortar and pestleBesides these useful evaluations of hundreds upon hundreds of supplements, Natural Standard also has sections devoted to your pet’s health, medical conditions, sports medicine, health & wellness, and environment & global health.  The medical conditions database gives a good overview for many—including risk factors, standard medications, and effective and possibly effective integrative therapies, which in some cases, such as high blood pressure, may include relaxation exercises such as yoga and tai chi.

In addition to these databases, Natural Standard provides Health Center areas for men, women, children, seniors, and adolescents.  Recently Natural Standard added an audio feature to over 200 of their evidence-based Bottom Line Monographs. Audio will be available for all Foods, Herbs & Supplement topics in the coming months. This option will appear on the left side of the screen.  Want to learn more? Natural Standard provides a free monthly e-newsletter covering news and events on herbs, supplements, exercise, nutrition, complementary and alternative medicine modalities, practices, and policy.

Natural Standard is a good place to begin to gather non-biased information on complementary medicine, but before adding anything to your health regimen, you should check with your doctor.