Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Many people come to our Web site—more than 3 million, in fact, in 2012—seeking information on complementary health approaches. The majority of these visitors came to our site looking for information on certain herbal supplements. This comes as no real surprise because we know that the U.S. herb and botanical supplement market is big business, with consumer sales growing to more than $5 billion in 2011.
However, what is a bit surprising to me are the specific herbal supplements that people are searching for. The five most searched-for herbs that brought people to NCCAM’s Web site in 2012 are: evening primrose oil, St. John’s wort, fenugreek, echinacea, and aloe vera. I find this interesting, in particular, because evening primrose oil and fenugreek are not top-selling herbs (according the Nutrition Business Journal). Although much research has been conducted on St. John’s wort and echinacea, only a few small, exploratory studies have been done on evening primrose oil and fenugreek. And yet, there is a definite interest in these natural products, and people want to learn more.
NCCAM’s Herbs at a Glance series has reliable information to help you learn what the science says, potential side effects and cautions, and resources for more information about these and other herbs and botanicals. We even have a new eBook that you can download. Our Web site also has other resources that can help you be an informed consumer and learn more about the safety of herbal and dietary supplements. I also encourage you to talk with your health care provider about the effectiveness and possible risks of any natural product you are considering or are already using. This is particularly important if you are taking any prescription medications, because herbal products can change the body’s response to drugs. Take care, and as always, be well!