Risks and benefits of commonly used herbal medicines in Mexico.
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In Mexico, local empirical knowledge about medicinal properties of plants is the basis for their use as home remedies. It is generally accepted by many people in Mexico and elsewhere in the world that beneficial medicinal effects can be obtained by ingesting plant products. In this review, we focus on the potential pharmacologic bases for herbal plant efficacy, but we also raise concerns about the safety of these agents, which have not been fully assessed. Although numerous randomized clinical trials of herbal medicines have been published and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of these studies are available, generalizations about the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines are clearly not possible. Recent publications have also highlighted the unintended consequences of herbal product use, including morbidity and mortality. It has been found that many phytochemicals have pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions with drugs. The present review is limited to some herbal medicines that are native or cultivated in Mexico and that have significant use. We discuss the cultural uses, phytochemistry, pharmacological, and toxicological properties of the following plant species: nopal (Opuntia ficus), peppermint (Mentha piperita), chaparral (Larrea divaricata), dandlion (Taraxacum officinale), mullein (Verbascum densiflorum), chamomile (Matricaria recutita), nettle or stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), linden flower (Tilia europea), and aloe (Aloe vera). We conclude that our knowledge of the therapeutic benefits and risks of some herbal medicines used in Mexico is still limited and efforts to elucidate them should be intensified.