Herbal 'Remedy' May Be Hazardous During Pregnancy

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Healthy Pregnancy and Herbal Medicine

A Baylor College of Medicine professor takes issue with a 2004 recommendation by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology that the herbal extract ginger is an option for relief of nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. In its Practice Bulletin, the College stated that limited evidence supports the use of ginger as a "non-pharmacologic option" for treatment of morning sickness.

Dr. Donald Marcus, a professor of medicine and immunology at BCM, is concerned that the evidence for the safety of such a recommendation is poor. Marcus' opinion piece on the ginger recommendation, co-authored by Dr. Wayne R. Snodgrass of the departments of pediatrics and pharmacology-toxicology at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, appears in the May 2005 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Marcus and Snodgrass take issue with the designation of ginger as "non-pharmacologic." Ginger extract contains many chemical compounds, including some that are similar to anti-inflammatory medications that may interfere with blood coagulation or kidney function.

Moreover, there are no rigorous studies of the potential dangers of ginger or other dietary supplements during pregnancy. Marcus cites prior recommendations made by the Teratology Society to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that dietary supplements cannot be assumed to be safe for an embryo or fetus.

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"Although the public and some health care professionals believe that herbal medicines are relatively safe, there are remarkably little data to support that assumption," Marcus's commentary states.

Since the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, herbal medicines have been classified as dietary supplements. Safety testing is not required and manufacturers of herbal supplements are not required to report findings of adverse side effects to the FDA.

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HOUSTON - (May 25, 2005) - http://www.bcm.edu

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