Seeking Reliable Information on Herbal Products

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It can be challenging to locate free, unbiased information about herbal products.
It can be challenging to locate free, unbiased information about herbal products.

What are some helpful Internet resources for patients to find reliable information about herbal products? — Name withheld on request

Unbiased, evidence-based resources can be difficult to access without a subscription fee. An Internet search typically results in sponsored websites or those geared toward selling products to patients with cancer or their caregivers. Fortunately, there are some helpful, nonbiased websites available.

Here are a few that I have used to answer questions about supplements and that I recommend to patients when asked.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center maintains a database with information about multiple herbs and dietary supplements: About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products.The site contains information geared towards patients as well as health care providers.

The American Cancer Society website contains information to help patients evaluate information from other sources, and to facilitate conversations with their health care providers: Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This section also contains information specifically related to the use of marijuana in patients with cancer.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health maintains a database of general information on herbs and supplements: Health Topics A-Z. This section may be particularly helpful for patients wishing to take herbs or supplements for other medical conditions besides their cancer diagnosis.

Supplements may interact with the metabolism of medication, antagonize the mechanism of action, enhance toxicity, or otherwise interact with chemotherapy or radiation cancer treatments. Even if the above websites are used, patients and caregivers considering herbal supplements for their cancer or during their cancer therapy should be advised to discuss its use with their oncology care team to minimize unintended effects of their supplements on their cancer treatment. — Lisa A. Thompson, PharmD, BCOP

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