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Safety of traditional medicine and natural product supplements in psychiatry

Tang, Siu W.a,,b; Tang, Wayne H.b; Leonard, Brian E.b,,c

International Clinical Psychopharmacology: January 2020 - Volume 35 - Issue 1 - p 1–7
doi: 10.1097/YIC.0000000000000279
Review Article

Traditional medicines in the form of health food and supplements are highly popular nowadays. They are often aggressively promoted with unsubstantiated health benefit claims. Patients suffering from chronic illness, such as psychiatric disorders may be attracted to these products and use them concurrently with their prescribed drugs. The potential danger of these health supplements and traditional medicines containing products have prompted repeated warnings by the US Food and Drug Administration in recent years. A new initiative by the Food and Drug Administration in 2019 was also implemented to strengthen the oversight of these supplements. The WHO global compendium will include traditional medicines in 2019, which has generated much debate about their safety. Many practising psychiatrists are not familiar with traditional medicines, and clinically useful information is also not easily available. In this review, we examine the nature and safety of commonly encountered traditional medicine in these health food products and supplements.

aDepartment of Psychiatry, University of California, Irvine, USA

bInstitute of Brain Medicine, Hong Kong

cNational University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Received 20 December 2018 Accepted 4 June 2019

Correspondence to Siu Tang, MD, PhD, University of California Irvine School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92603, USA, Tel: +852 9186 3484; fax: +852 2333 3978; e-mail:

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