Alternative medicine: Learning outcomes

Last updated: Friday, August 10, 2018

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:
  • Describe some of the safety concerns that herbal products and dietary supplements may present to patients.
  • Search online for good quality information about the safety of common herbal medicines and dietary supplements.
  • Ask appropriate questions when talking to patients or healthcare professionals about the safety of these medicines.

You can download a PDF of the whole tutorial (without interactive elements such as the Learning Exercises) and a one-page summary of key points.

You should allow 60 minutes to complete this tutorial, including the Learning Exercises.


If you are a hospital pre-registration pharmacist, this tutorial may help you achieve GPhC performance standards such as these:
  • A.3  Manage problems.
  • B1.11  Provide information and advice appropriate to the needs of the recipient(s).
  • C2.1  Provide considered and correct answers to queries, founded on research-based evidence.
  • C2.3  Identify and take action to minimise risk to patients from their treatment.

If you are a foundation pharmacist, this tutorial may assist with meeting certain competencies from the RPS framework including:
  • 1.2  Need for the medicine.
  • 1.4  Selection of the medicine (interactions).
  • 1.6  Medicines information and patient education.
  • 3.3  Analysing information

Continuing professional development

Finally, here are some CPD activities you could consider:

★  Next time that you identify a patient taking an alternative medicine, see if you can find an evidence based review of that product. The Cochrane Library has published many, or you could look on one of the sites in the Information sources or conduct an Embase/Medline search. What did you discover about the weight of evidence? How did it compare to the clinical trials evidence needed for a licensed prescription product? Write a CPD entry on what you have learned.
★  Reflect on the reasons why patients may take alternative medicines. Can you speak to some patients about why they do so? Write an account summarising your thoughts and the results of your interviews.