Alternative medicine: Information sources

Last updated: Sunday, July 12, 2015

With this topic, more than most, there are many unreliable sources of information. Only use validated textbooks and websites where you can be sure of the quality of information such as the ones below.

Ginkgo biloba     
Courtesy of JĂșlio Reis, Wikimedia Commons
  • The Natural Medicines Database is a US resource that is useful for a range of clinical problems. It requires a subscription, but many MI centres in the UK have purchased access. Take care that the ingredients of some products with the same brand name may differ between the US and the UK.

  • The Pharmaceutical Press publishes several useful resources. Herbal Medicines and Dietary Supplements can help with a range of clinical problems including contraindications, adverse effects, interactions, and efficacy. Stockley’s Drug Interactions includes some information on herbal medicines and supplements, but Stockley’s Herbal Medicines Interactions is a companion text that solely focuses on interactions with complementary therapies. 

  • UKMi has published a number of Medicines Q&As on herbal medicines, homeopathy, and dietary supplements. These are published on the SPS website.

  • The MHRA website has some general information on the regulation and safety of alternative medicines. The ‘Yellow Card’ reporting scheme also covers herbal medicines but you need to request the data from the MHRA directly.

  • Consider using Embase or Medline.

  • Google can be helpful to try to identify more obscure products, but bear in mind the limitations about reliability. You may like to look at our brief guide to evaluating websites about medicines.

Presenting your answer 

Once you’ve asked sufficient questions, gathered the information required and assessed it, you’ll need to provide an answer. We can offer you some general guidance on answering clinical problems.