My clients ask me if they should be taking ginseng or other such herbs.


This is one of my first times using the Internet and first, I must commend you on how well you promote the dietitian as the expert on reliable and professional nutritional information. I am a clinical dietitian myself and feel we need to promote ourselves more to the general public (as well as to physicians).

Now, on to my question: I’m wondering if you’ve heard any news on “nutraceuticals”. Apparently, there is a conference being held in Toronto, Ontario regarding this expanding field of herbal/food “medicine”. I’m beginning to have many clients ask me questions regarding whether or not they should be taking ginseng or other such herbs for various ailments. I know there is limited and inconclusive research in this area, but I am sure the general public and various health disciplines are using/promoting these more and more every day. These people will soon be demanding we make a professional view of this whole area. What do you feel, that we, as Dietitians, should be advising people, with respect to this new and increasingly common issue???

First off, the NIH has granted a position to study non-traditional herbal remedies. I must admit that at first, I was skeptical, given my training in traditional medicine. But, there is valid scientific research on the use of herbal treatments. In Europe, people see herbalists much in the same way we consult a pharmacist.

In regards to the use of nutraceuticals, I feel we must actively seek to inform ourselves regarding these, filter out what works and is validated by research and inform patients of alternatives. The problem we deal with is often that the purveyors of such remedies and their certification for making such recommendations base their information on testimonials. The “I took X product and it worked for me, so you should try it.” Same situation as the purveyors of various fad diets we have had to deal with. Unless we are informed of nutritional trends, valid or not, we fall behind as the “nutrition expert”. We need to become educated. If we don’t provide answers, people will go elsewhere.