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The all-natural drugs you may already be using (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2010



Many clients are requesting all natural and alternative treatment options as they are under the impression that they produce less adverse effects than pharmaceutical compounds. This is a common misconception as some of the most toxic compounds known are natural products such as botulinum toxin, ricin, cobra venom, and uranium, among many others. It is important to discuss with clients all medications that an animal is on, including dietary supplements as they can have adverse effects and drug interactions similar to pharmaceutical compounds. St John's wort is a hepatic enzyme inducer (cytochrome P450) that can reduce the effectiveness of some drugs such as cyclosporine, digoxin, diltiazem, and vincristine among others. In contrast, grapefruit juice extract is a hepatic enzyme inhibitor (cytochrome P450) that can result in drug toxicity with drugs such as cyclosporine, digoxin, diltiazem, and vincristine among others.



Many pharmaceutical compounds in use are purified naturally occurring compounds or are commercially synthesized compounds that occur naturally. Many other pharmaceuticals are semi-synthetic in which a natural compound has been modified to produce a more favorable pharmacologic compound. Some important semi-synthetic compounds include aspirin, cephalexin, cefazolin, clindamycin, and amoxicillin. In contrast some pharmacologic compounds are completely synthetic including the fluoroquinolone antimicrobials.



It is important to realize the benefits and limitations of dietary supplements and "natural" products. Most of these products are not approved by the FDA and have not been demonstrated to be safe and effective in controlled clinical trials. Some compounds have undergone limited trials, but none of them have undergone the scrutiny of an FDA trial. Another important point to remember is that most of these products are not subject to Good Manufacturing Practices demonstrating the purity and potency of the final product as mandated for FDA approved therapeutics. The manufacturers of dietary supplements are not required to assess stability of the active ingredients, therefore they may decrease in effectiveness over time. Stability of some compounds may be as short as a few hours depending on their manufacturing process. Another consideration is the potency of an active ingredient may vary batch to batch due to source of product, time of harvest or collection, and strain differences.