herbalbase – efficacy and safety of natural medicines

Herbalbase provides evidence based analysis on the efficacy and safety of natural medicines. The philosophy in the development of herbalbase has been that if natural medicines are competing on the same patients with drugs, then their efficacy and safety should be evaluated using similar criteria and methodology that is required for evaluation of drugs. Herbalbase is designed to offer quick answers for health care professionals on the patients’ questions concerning the use of natural medicines. Herbalbase is continuously updated and, therefore, the information is always up-to-date.

It has been estimated that up to two thirds of the Western people have at some stage used natural medicines and about half of them during the last 3 months. Accordingly, health care personnel constantly face questions regarding the use of natural medicines. The claim that there is little evidence based information on the efficacy and safety of natural medicines is not completely correct. There are thousands of good quality preclinical and clinical studies behind the analysis of natural medicines presented in herbalbase; for several natural medicines there is sound evidence based proof of their efficacy in selected indications. On the other hand, the most common problem with health claims regarding natural medicines seems to be that preclinical studies without evidence from randomized (placebo)controlled clinical studies are used to support the claimed health effects. Although patients often consider natural medicines as ‘soft’ alternatives to conventional medicines, there is empirical proof that use of natural medicines can be associated with serious adverse effects such as liver toxicity (e.g. Chaparral) or drug interactions (e.g. St. John’s wort).

In herbalbase, natural medicines can get two alternative efficacy ratings:

  • Evidence based indication in cases where there are several good quality clinical studies using accepted methodology and sufficient study size describing the efficacy in given indication.
  • Traditional indication in cases where there is either strong traditional use of the natural medicine for a given indication supported by evidence from preclinical studies or insufficient clinical evidence for efficacy.


The analysis on the efficacy also contains a short description of the pharmacological effects of the substance, as well as description of the results from clinical studies, dosing information for different formulations, and description of the traditional use in folk medicine.

The safety of the substance is based on the evidence from clinical studies as well as pharmacoepidemiological and pharmacovigilance data of reported adverse effects. Based on this information all substances have been given:

  • contraindications and
  • adverse effect profile

characterized by standard terms, which are searchable. In addition:

  • safety during pregnancy & lactation and
  • interactions with drugs

have been described and classified as in the gravbase&lactbase and INXBASE databases.

The database structure of herbalbase allows searches by substance name (e.g. ginger), adverse effect term (e.g. hepatotoxicity) or by indication (e.g. dementia) or contraindication (e.g. bleeding). The substance names are amended by relevant synonyms, which are to ease the searches. Herbalbase is continuously updated and the information is always up-to-date. The technical structure of the database is simple and it can be easily integrated to existing or new portals or mobile solutions; herbalbase is delivered to our partners as an XML export file. References are PubMed –indexed, which enables linkage to the abstracts of the original publications.