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November 28, 2001

Use of Herbal Medications Before Surgery

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2001;286(20):2542-2544. doi:10.1001/jama.286.20.2542

To the Editor: Dr Ang-Lee and colleagues1 note that the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded approximately 5000 suspected adverse effects associated with herbal products prior to 1996. Although these numbers may seem to imply that herbs are dangerous, they actually confirm the relative safety of botanicals. According to WHO, botanicals are used as a primary source of medicines for the majority of the world's population, representing billions of dosage units. In the same time period, WHO reported more than 2 million adverse events for all drugs. The majority of adverse events were interactions between herbs and conventional drugs. In most of these reports, no distinction was made as to the causative agent. Therefore, the pharmaceutical drug was potentially responsible for many of these events.