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Wien Med Wochenschr. 2002;152(7-8):190-2.

Health risks over the Internet: advice offered by "medical herbalists" to a pregnant woman.

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Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter EX2 4NT, U.K.



The aim of this study was to investigate Internet advice offered by "medical herbalists" to a pregnant woman regarding herbal treatment of morning sickness.


Search engines were used to find relevant Web sites and all potential e-mail addresses were contacted. Herbalists were asked for advice regarding three specific medicinal herbs: ginger, raspberry and juniper.


Eighty-three e-mail addresses were found and contacted. The response rate was 51%. Nineteen (45%) of all respondents recommended ginger, 9 (21%) of them without mentioning adverse effects. Seven (17%) respondents recommended taking raspberry; five (12%) without mentioning adverse effects. No respondent recommended taking juniper during pregnancy and 12 herbalists (29%) warned about using this herbal remedy during pregnancy.


Advice about herbal medicine is readily available over the Internet. The advice offered is misleading at best and dangerous at worst. Potential Internet users should be made aware of these problems and ways of minimizing the risk should be found.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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