Last week, the U.S. Government revealed the results of an extensive study on glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis pain. The agency that released the information, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has also sponsored research about other natural medicines and their effectiveness, such as St. John's wort for depression and saw palmetto for prostate cancer. These studies seem to show we are spending $20 billion a year on pills and potions that don't work better than placebos.
“Hogwash!” I hear you saying, because many people have seen benefit, from a little to a lot. So if you are tuned up on this topic, how about a little debate and personal storytelling on what natural substances work for you - anecdotally? In other words, even if the National Institutes of Health studies can't prove value, what does your own experience tell you? Conversely, tell me about things you have tried that didn't make a difference at all.

For example, I believe ginger helped me through chemo nausea - a little bit anyway. St. John's wort seemed to calm the anxiety of a family member who then moved onto a pharmaceutical product.

The concern is always that the range of companies producing natural products goes from ethical to criminal, and purity wanders all over the map. That made it hard for the NIH to do the studies of these products. Was everyone getting the same thing?

Another issue came up that we can discuss another time: How powerful is the “placebo effect?” In other words, do we sometimes do better because we are taking a pill we believe will help even if pharmacologically it has no efficacy?

These are big topics, and I am sure you have views. Please share them!