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Am J Med. 1998 Feb;104(2):170-8.

Harmless herbs? A review of the recent literature.

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Department of Complementary Medicine, Postgraduate Medical School, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.


Herbal medicines have become a popular form of therapy. They are often perceived as being natural and therefore harmless. This article reviews the recent literature on the adverse effects of herbal remedies. Examples of allergic reactions, toxic reactions, adverse effects related to an herb's desired pharmacological actions, possible mutagenic effects, drug interactions, drug contamination, and mistaken plant identities are provided. Because of underreporting, our present knowledge may well be just the "tip of the iceberg." Little is known about the relative safety of herbal remedies compared to synthetic drug treatments, although for some herbal remedies, the risks may be less than for conventional drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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