Jim Bulger, MLIS
Manager, Library Services
Natural Medicines, formerly Natural Standard and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, is an authoritative resource on dietary supplements, natural medicines, and complementary alternative and integrative therapies. It is produced by the Therapeutic Research Center (TRC), which acquired Natural Standard in 2013, combining content from the two previously separate and well-regarded resources. TRC also produces the Pharmacist’s Letter.
The intended audience is healthcare practitioners, including clinicians and pharmacists. Natural Medicines provides information on over 90,000 commercial dietary supplements and natural ingredients, including product data and the evidence-based NMBER® rating system. Other key features include drug-supplement interaction data, comparative effectiveness charts, and patient handouts.
To prepare each Natural Medicines monograph, authors conduct searches in several databases, followed by consultation with researchers in the complementary and alternative medicine field. A process of data abstraction and analysis is performed by healthcare professionals, then the monograph undergoes a blinded review. The Natural Medicines website includes information about the editorial board and a listing of authors/peer reviewers, along with translators and research contributors.
The major databases it includes are:
- Food, Herbs and Supplements
- Health & Wellness
- Sports Medicine
- Comparative Effectiveness
- Commercial Products
- Medical Conditions
Each of these can be browsed via an alphabetical listing, although fast retrieval across all databases is possible using a search box on the home page. Users can search by scientific, common, or brand name for any natural medicine, as well as by therapy or condition. Advanced search functionality is available to limit to certain databases or aspects of the monograph.
For each natural medicine topic, the Professional Monograph presents a wealth of information, including background on the substance, a “people use this for” section, safety, effectiveness, dosing, adverse effects/toxicology, and interactions with drugs, other herbals, food, and lab tests. There is also an evidence table and evidence discussion. The usually extensive reference list includes links to PubMed abstracts, where available. A patient handout is included with each monograph, providing thorough, but easy-to-read information.
Additional tools include an interaction checker, nutrient depletion, effectiveness checker, pregnancy and lactation checker, and more.
“Colleagues Interact” features a collection of forums created by users and the Natural Medicines editorial team, providing a place for users to ask questions or discuss topics that may not be currently covered in the database. Also, there is CME available for health professionals.
One notable shortcoming: the web interface does not appear to have a responsive design, which makes it less user-friendly on a mobile device. However, Natural Medicines offers a mobile app as part of its single-user access subscriptions.
The database is marketed to a wide variety of institutions, including hospitals and health systems, universities, retail pharmacies, and other professional practices, as well as corporations and manufacturers. Multiyear license agreements are an option. Individual subscriptions are available, including via bulk purchase options.
Usage data is available upon request from a client representative, and includes logins and access on a monthly basis.
This is an excellent product, offering a wealth of well-researched information. It is one of the most authoritative and comprehensive resources for complementary and alternative products and therapies. It is an excellent resource for students, but even more so for practitioners looking for reliable information when they advise patients.
Vardell, Emily. “Natural Medicines: A Complementary and Alternative Medicines Tool Combining Natural Standard and the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.” Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 34(4):461-470, 2015.