Published Online: Thursday, February 1, 2007

Pharmacists may soon be filling prescriptions for mushrooms, roots, and berries, if the University of Minnesota drug researchers are able to scientifically validate the effectiveness of a number of legendary folk remedies.

Although volumes of case histories have been written about the success of herbal remedies in treating various disorders, the lack of rigorous clinical testing of these substances have rendered them out of the mainstream of the modern pharmacy's arsenal. The tests, being conducted by the University's Center for Spirituality and Healing, could change the status of 3 promising herbal remedies, each of which has been granted Investigational New Drug status by the FDA—a step that allows the remedies to be tested on humans.

Three separate clinical trials have been approved as part of the project: (1) treating breast cancer patients with turkey tail mushroom—a remedy believed to activate cells of the immune system that attack cancer cells; (2) testing whether tea tree oil can speed the healing of foot wounds in patients with diabetes by controlling staphylococcus infections; (3) involving a tea prepared from a mixture of 4 herbs and a mushroom to control hot flashes in menopausal women.

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