With rising herbal medicine sales paralleling a faltering economy, here are some tips on these dietary supplements:

— Know that herbal medicines aren't as strictly regulated as conventional medicines and that evidence on their safety and effectiveness is often lacking.

— Do your homework. Find out what scientific evidence exists about the product you're considering. A good resource is http://www.pubmed.gov, an online service from the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health that contains summaries from published research.

— Tell your doctor or other health care provider any time you plan to use an alternative treatment; recognize that these products can sometimes interfere with other drugs and may even cause dangerous side effects.

— Find out if your insurance health plan covers alternative medicines; many don't.

— Check out the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's Web site, http://www.nccam.nih.gov, which contains helpful information for evaluating these products.

Related: Sales of Herbal Supplements Booming

___

Sources:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine