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New center to focus on alternative medicine research, education

Complementary and alternative medications, such as St. John's Wort, Ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, Kava and Herbal Ephedra, have become household names. A recent survey showed that nearly half of the adults in the United States use some form of alternative medicine. However, little is known about possible side effects or drug interactions associated with these herbal remedies.

A new center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) will provide information to help Americans make the right choices when it comes to alternative remedies. This is the first center of its kind in San Antonio to focus on alternative medicine/therapy research and education.

The mission of the Center for Integrative Health is to foster research and education on the safety, use and evidence of complementary and alternative medicine practices and to promote cost-effective, evidence-based integration of safe alternative medicine therapies. The center's advisory board is composed of representatives from the five schools at the Health Science Center and local medical practitioners.

"Traditionally, alternative therapy has not been a part of medical students' curriculum," said Roberto Villarreal, M.D., M.P.H., director of the center. "However, in recent years, the use of alternative medicines and therapies by the general population has become quite widespread.

"Doctors and patients need to be aware of how effective, non-effective or harmful some of these alternative medications or therapies can be. Our center will focus on educating our medical students and the general public about alternative remedies."

The public can access free information in English and Spanish from the center's Web site at For more information, call (210) 567-7826.

Contacts: Natalie Gutierrez
Aileen Salinas