There can be such an adversarial relationship between the average medical provider and the world of supplements or natural medicine. Each side lobs their stereotyped hand-grenades over the dividing wall, hoping to discredit the other. By its very name, however, integrative medicine should work to integrate the best of both worlds. By its emphasis on understanding root causes, functional medicine must seek understanding through the discoveries of good science. Consider the following summary from the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry regarding how to bring botanical therapies into widespread use.
As the development of new pharmaceuticals continues at a somewhat slower pace, especially in terms of antibiotics, and the cost skyrockets, finding natural substances which offer therapeutic options becomes more attractive. The market for these natural products is growing at a fast pace wiwhile threats to regulate it heat up. Both sides have a point. On one side, many natural products offer real benefits even if we don’t fully understand their mechanisms. On the other hand, many false promieses are hyped by deceptive marketing. More suffering individuals could be help with the right naturals while many could be hurt by swindlers.
Therefore, supplements and their true promoters are helped by two things. First, honest, transparent, and self-policing practices would push out swindlers and unsupported false claims. Integity and accountability within our ranks is critical.
From there, how to go about this would include most if not all of the principles offered in this article of focus. Researchers from the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy present a reasonable case for taking botanicals through a stepwise development that would lead to their appropriate use and prevent ineffective or dangerous ones from promotion. It would also help develop an understanding of how to use them in combination with other therapies based on interaction studies.
Before summarizing here, I would just add that for such a process to occur we need a few things in place for a foundation. First, we need integrity in the process in order to avoid or openly acknowledge conflicts of interest. Second, we need adequate funding for products which may not provide great financial reward for the ones studying their effects. Third, we need cooperation and a cease-fire between conventional and natural medicine for the benefit of the common patients we serve.
From there they recommend progressing through the following reasonable steps:
- Literature search for botanical candidates
- Acquisition and authentication of the correct product
- Determination of identity and mechanisms of active ingredients
- Standardization of the substance for pre-clinical studies
- Investigation into the metabolism and bioavailability of the active ingredients
- In vitro studies regarding effects on metabolism of other drugs
- Development of a standard formula for clinical studies
- Clinical trials which included product-drug interactions.
For a full explanation of each step, the article is worth the time it takes to read. With effort and resources invested in this process, we would likely see a great step forward in the art and science of botanical medicine. The ability and efficacy of those already practicing it would be improved. The broader acceptance of these beneficial therapies would allow those in the conventional medical world to benefit as well. Our hope in functional medicine is that such a process would allow more and more individuals to achieve a healthier, more abundant life.
van Breemen R. B. (2015). Development of Safe and Effective Botanical Dietary Supplements. Journal of medicinal chemistry, 58(21), 8360–8372. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.5b00417
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.