Nearly a third of Americans use complementary health approaches, ranging from dietary supplements to acupuncture. Point of care resources to identify that supplement your patient is taking but you’ve never heard of can be really useful. We recently reviewed one useful resource, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database app. Here, we’ll look at the About Herbs app.

I am going to try not to gush over this medical app. Developed by the Integrative Medicine folks at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), the About Herbs app includes information on herbs, supplements, and alternative medicine techniques like acupuncture and acupressure. Pictures are included with each entry which makes the About Herbs app visually delightful. Frankly, they had me at the opening screen.

AboutHerbs1

The About Herbs app is free to use with no registration required. There is a standard medical use disclaimer. An About page takes users to the MSKCC website or Herb and Other Products FAQs.

The FAQ offers answers to many common questions regarding the use of herbal products and integrative medicine for cancer prevention and treatment. It also includes information on herb-drug interactions and acupuncture.

The About Herbs app greatest strength is in the searchable database of herbal products and integrative therapies. Users can search for a particular item or use the browse feature to peruse a list of topics. One iTunes reviewer suggested this could be improved by incorporating searches by disease state as well.

Topic information is provided in both consumer and professional versions.

The consumer version of this medical app includes the scientific, common, and brand names for the herbals or supplements, along with information on how the product is thought to work, uses, warnings, side effects, and a ‘Special Point’ that often includes a recommendation on whether patients should use or avoid the herb. Users can share the information via email.

A toggle at the top of the page allows users to move easily from Consumer to Professional versions which is great at the bedside with patients in an office or clinic. The Professional versions of the monographs include scientific, common, and brand names, a clinical summary, mechanism of action, warnings, adverse reactions, herb-drug interactions, and a list of references.

The reference list in the About Herbs app often includes articles more than 5 – 10 years old, though some do have very recent references. This may be more reflective of the body of knowledge on the topic rather than a deficiency in the app.

Users can also bookmark topics to keep a list of products they reference frequently. Navigation from the bookmarks section could be improved as there’s no Back button to take the user back to the last page viewed.

  • Price
    • Free
    • Excellent interface and visuals
    • Evidence-based info on alternative medicine
    • References easily found
  • Dislikes
    • Only available for iOS products
    • Bookmarks navigation could be improved
  • Overall

    About Herbs is an excellent tool for a clinician to use to answer those patient questions about efficacy and use of alternative medicine options. The interface is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Also great for patients to use at home and clinicians to share information with patients at the bedside or via email.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    Excellent! Easy to navigate with pictures for each topic.

  • Multimedia Usage
    • N/A

    No multimedia features to speak of.

  • Price

    Really solid information for a free app.

  • Real World Applicability

    Useful for clinicians and patients

  • Device Used For Review

    iPhone 6s and iPad Air 2

  • Available for DownloadiPhoneiPad