New Web-Based Resource: About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products

NEW YORK, January 7, 2003 — A unique web-based resource about herbs, botanicals, and other products has been launched to provide medical practitioners, as well as the general public, access to comprehensive information about these products. “Use of herbs and related agents has grown tremendously in popularity, but until now there was no easy access to current, comprehensive information about these agents,” says Barrie Cassileth, PhD, Chief of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Information on this site explains the effects, side effects, drug interactions, and other details of each product listed as well as links to scientific research. “Vitamins, herbs and other products are not required to be tested for safety and efficacy as are pharmaceuticals. As a result, neither consumers nor doctors know what they contain or whether they could interfere with other medications,” said Dr. Cassileth. “These substances contain active agents that can be very helpful to patients. By the same token, however, they have the potential to cause harm.”

Dr. Cassileth notes that many herbal supplements, such as Saint John’s Wort, interfere with the liver’s ability to process major medications, including chemotherapy. The result is a reduced amount of medication reaching the body and therefore reduced effectiveness. “Herbs are biologically active agents, best viewed with great respect as dilute pharmaceuticals,” she notes.

The web resource contains monographs on 135 agents, with more added as they come into use. “This resource is an invaluable tool for both doctors and patients looking for comprehensive information about dietary supplements,” said David Rosenthal, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Past President of the American Cancer Society. The web site is maintained and continually updated under the direction of Dr. Cassileth and pharmacist and botanicals expert K. Simon Yeung, and can be accessed at:

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is the world’s oldest and largest institution devoted to prevention, patient care, research and education in cancer. Our scientists and clinicians generate innovative approaches to better understand, diagnose and treat cancer. Our specialists are leaders in biomedical research and in translating the latest research to advance the standard of cancer care worldwide.

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