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Guide to Herbal Supplements

Learn the Truth About these Top Sellers


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I respectfully disagree with this article. Herbs have been used (tested) for thousands of years by the world's indigenous people. The resistance to herbal supplementation in the USA is more due to propaganda from Big Pharma than anything else. Just as you would not walk into a pharmacy and pick your own drugs, so it is with herbs. Herbal remedies are effective and safe when recommended by a practitioner who knows what he/she is doing. The risks of side effects of drugs that treat symptoms instead of causes grows longer everyday. Western medicine is great for putting you back together after a car crash but so many diseases can be prevented and cured by smart nutrition and natural supplementation. Report
Yea Valerian! I am a huge fan of Valerian for helping quiet my mind and getting to sleep without a drowsy feeling the next morning. It smells like dirty gym socks so I lean toward the standardized capsules from Whole Foods. Report
I am amused and irritated by the vast amount of energy used in warning mankind about the risks of herbals. Where o where, learned sparkpeople scholars, are the warnings about chemically altered, genetically engineered, and/or otherwise modified foods? I guess it has to do with the government insisting that these are all safe as can be but those naturally derived herbals... wow... gotta be scairt of those! Report
I have managed to find a blend of herbal supplements that work on my Major Depression better than any prescription I have tried.

Also, just a note about St. Johns Wort: it has negative interactions with several over-the-counter medications, so do your homework before taking it. I have never tried it, so can't say if it works. Report
DR Oz highly recomends taking Siberian Gingsing every day......this article says it hasn't worked

everybody has an opinion,...but with all due respect but i would tend to agree with someone of Dr. Oz's stature

Please readers ..remember to do your own research Report
The only supplement I take anymore is Cranberry Fruit Extract to prevent UTIs. I used to get UTIs several times a year, but since I started taking the cranberry supplement, I think I've only had one (maybe zero!) UTI in over a year! I'm not a big fan of taking vitamins or supplements, since I feel like if you can get it from the actual source, that is best. But this is one thing that isn't invasive, doesn't have side effects for me, and doesn't make me drink loads of sugary or artificially sugary juice. Plus, I only take it once every few days, so the bottle lasts me a long time! :) Yay for cranberry! Report
I agree with talking to your doctor, or at least your pharmacist, to make sure your herbal supplements do not conflict with, reduce the efficiacy of, or even worse, increase the action of any prescriptions.

Also, don't assume that an herbal/natural product is better than a prescription. I take generic lovastatin for high cholesterol. My sister-in-law takes Red Yeast Rice instead of the prescription. My RX has been around for 30-40 years with no major side effects. I get periodic blood tests to check my liver - I'm also on other RXs for different health issues.

The Red Yeast Rices is not regulated by the FDA or any other oversight organization. Studies have shown that some brands tested have the prescription ingredient that is the same as lovastatin. However, the amounts found in various brands (and in different batches of the same brands) are different - some have a lot of this ingredient, some have hardly any.

Imagine what would happen if someone were taking both the prescription statin drug PLUS the Red Yeast Rice - that could cause serious liver damage.

What I find most ironic in this situation with myself & my SIL, is that my prescription is $4/month at Walmart. She pays around $30/month for her "natural" supplement. She is on Medicare and Social Security, and she really can't afford to spend all that money. She would be financially better off getting the prescription. But she doesn't want to because she wants to use the "natural" supplement instead, even though she doesn't know how much, if any, medicine she's getting.

There are also studies that black cohosh is detrimental to breast cancer patients/survivors whose tumors were estrogen-receptor positive. Many women take this to relieve menopause symptoms - a double whammy because many women go into menopause when having chemo for breast cancer. Black Cohosh and some phyto-estrogen products, like soy, reduce the efficacy of the medication given to ER-positive patients (Tamoxifen).

Bottom line - be very careful if you have any health issues, and don't believe everything you hear at the health food store (they want to sell you their products), or read on the internet - get your information from a reliable source, not the website that is selling the products. Report
I also wanted to mention that cranberry juice is - as others mentioned - good for the urinary tract system before the bugs get in there and create havoc. It is excellent for those of us livign with cystitis because we cannot take anything to get "rid" of the cystitis. When I feel the cystitis is starting to surface (as it rumbles underneath but usually with probiotics I do fine) I make a mix of real cranberries (frozen) with water, cranberry juice (without added sugar) and a splash of real lemon juice. I blend it and drink once per day. It is a powerful surge of "cleansers" and I feel better within a couple days. I found cranberry supplements useless for cystitis and just plain juice is also useless. I recommended this to a couple friends who were recently diagnosed and they really found a difference. There are facts to back up the protective powers of cranberries, its just where one chooses to find the research. Report
Just as with doctors and nursing practioners, homeopathic physicans and naturalpath doctors can be wrong. As I metioned earlier, I had a ND that almost killed me. She sold me supplements, she had me on a restricted diet and the one herbal supplement she sold me for my thyroid issue was an actual prescribed medication. She claimed that it wasn't avaiable in Canada and charged me a high price to ship it up from the USA. It is avaiable in Canada, is well known and while it is organic, it is still a prescription - Armour. The ND prior to her, he was "a quack" that sold me hundreds of dollars of "snake oil" - supplements that did nothing to heal me. I was upfront and honest with him, he was not honest with me. I fired him publicly when he attempted to sell me a device to stop me from having hunger pangs. He knew I was recovering from eating disorders (bulemia) and he knew I had a blown thyroid. Yet knowing I was eating a very small amount due to no appetite, he "diagnosed" me with overeating and laziness as the reason for rapid weight gain. I dumped the supplements, dumped him and continued on with my MD, who prescribed Armour when we realized it worked far more effectively for me than Synthroid.

Those who state that herbal supplements are safe, there are no deaths, do they realize that this area of "medicine" is highly unregulated? That there isn't a standard of training, that the herbs are not standardized and stats are not kept with the same strictness as pharmaceuticals? Do they also realize that many pharmaceuticals are organic medicines, such as Armour? A few people mentioned that MDs are not practiced in homeopathic medicines or approaches which is a fallacy. I trained over 30yrs ago and we were discussing homepathic medicine and we were trained as nurses to ask all supplements patients take - prescribed and OTC, including vitamins and herbs. As a nurse I saw children come in overdosed on iron supplements, ill from herbs and yes, from well meaning parents who didn't understand that "natural" doesn't always mean safe. Herbal supplements, vitamins and mineral supplements have to be treated as serious as any prescribed medication.

My doctor and specialist are very well trained in this area and if they do not know, they do the research. As did my family doctor prior to my current doctor. Nursing practioners are very well rounded in their approach and education. It makes total sense to involve everyone in your health care especially when you are similar to myself and living with several chronic health issues. It just makes sense. Report
Thank you for this easy to use reference list! Report
Be careful! Not all herbal remedies will work well with is easy to overdose..I use both and try to be wise in my choices. I think this is a much better alternative to trashing people we do not know especially when we are challenging motives.

Just use wisdom and the common sense the good Lord gave you. JMHO! Report
This article is misnamed, it is not a guide to natural supps at all it is warning people away from them.I wonder if sparkpeople is funded by large pharmaceutical companies with articles like this. If not, why write this? Report
On cranberry for UTI and garlic and echinacea (and elderberry extract) for immune boosting: They all work most effectively if taken AT THE OUTSET. In other words, they work better if you take them when you first feel symptoms coming on. I take cranberry frequently to avoid UTIs.

Also, my last comment should have read: "It is not a RELAXING medication. It is for sleeping. It will knock you out, period. Take with extreme caution." (Typos! Blech!) Report
I was also prepared to object to this article, based on the teaser info, but there's actually some pretty good, common-sense advice here. Of COURSE you should tell your doctor if you are taking herbs. For that matter, you should inform your doctor of ANYTHING you are taking, particularly if--like me--you don't see just one doctor!

Valerian is for sleep, period. It's not an anti-anxiety or rexing medication. It will knock you out. Use with extreme caution.

I wish the medical establishment would be more open to alternatives for health care and that doctors would become more educated about it. With health care costs going up and many people out of work, alternatives are often much less expensive than mainstream medicine. Plus, less dependence on the toxic chemical foisted upon us by Big Pharma is a GOOD thing for our health!

As a side note, I DO strongly object to the author's obvious disdain for herbal medicine, as evidenced by its being referred to as "folklore." Herbal medicine has been around for centuries, and I can assure you that it's very real. It would be nice if the writers on this site would be more journalistic and less editorial in tone. Report
I would worry about taking any supplement that "increased my metabolism" as it seems like many of those make your heart race, which just seems dangerous. "Natural" doesn't mean "safe". There are a lot of things which are "natural" but which can kill you (i.e. certain varieties of mushroom, etc). I'd prefer to stick with things that are approved by the FDA personally. Report

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