Lowdown On Eight Popular Herbal Supplements

Lowdown On Eight Popular Herbal Supplements

“The FDA specifies that supplements, unlike drugs should and are not intended to prevent, diagnose or treat/cure diseases and hence should avoid making such claims”

Quick Fixes And Supplements

According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a dietary ingredient can be defined as a mineral, herb, vitamin, amino acid or other dietary substances that is used as a supplement in the diet to increase total dietary intake.

The FDA specifies that supplements, unlike drugs should and are not intended to prevent, diagnose or treat/cure diseases and hence should avoid making such claims. However, ‘quick fixes’ is the latest mantra to suit the busy lifestyles we all lead. Most of us, therefore prefer popping a pill than doing something as strenuous as eating right!

Initially diets were supported with vitamins and minerals supplements only to realize that we are barely meeting our protein needs, which led us to start a protein trial until now and suddenly, we have been made aware of herbal supplements.

The Different Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements or botanicals were discovered long ago. But with the rise of inflammatory and non-communicable disorders, awareness regarding health supplements has equally surged. Hence, here is a glance at the popular, yet lesser known properties and research findings of some herbal supplements.

Acai Berries

These red and purple coloured berries are native to Central and South America. Its use in the United States drastically increased as it was marketed as a weight loss supplement. Though there has not been substantial research on acai berries and its weight loss properties these berries have significant antioxidant potential through the presence ot anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and a few other flavonoids that may have anti-cancerous properties along with being anti-inflammatory.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko leaf extract was earlier used to treat lung related disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. Its role in cognitive development through memory enhancement has also been studied. There are conflicting results with gingko supplements, but many studies have found stabilization and/or slower decline in cognition function and behavior, especially in patients suffering from Alzheimer and other neuropsychiatric disorders.


Ginseng has a variety of types, depending on its native growth habitat. It has been believed to improve immunity, treat infections and illnesses and improve sexual and cognitive function. Asian ginseng native to China and Korea, contains active chemical components called ginsenosides that are responsible for its health claims. Though research has been inconclusive, its role in immune function and cognitive health is widely studied.

Garcinia Cambogia

Hydroxydtric acid (HCA) is the acid found in this tree fruit. HCA blocks the enzyme citrate lyase which is responsible for carbohydrates being stored as fat. It also helps insuppressing appetite by providing a feeling of fullness. Nevertheless, it is important that only morbidly obese individuals consider this supplement, as weight loss in healthy individuals can be brought about by proper diet and lifestyle modifications.

Saw Palmetto

This small palm tree is native to eastern United States. It had been earlier used to treat urinary disorders and prostate disorders. Also, research has showed that saw palmetto supplements may be beneficial in treating the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. And research on its effects on prostate cancer cells are underway, to understand if saw palmetto supplementation can prevent the development of prostate cancer.

Milk Thistle

This is a flowering herb, mostly used in liver disorders including liver cirrhosis, hepatitis and gall bladder. Milk thistle is known to protect liver cells and inhibit inflammation. Many studies have also been conducted on the effects of milk thistle for its properties of lowering blood lipid and blood sugar.


The Yohimbe tree, native to Africa contains a chemical component called yohimbine. It has found its use as an aphrodisiac (to increase sexual desire). Today it is used as a remedy to treat erectile dysfunction in men and other sexual disorders. However, research in studying the effects of yohimbe has been grim.


This herb is most often used in Chinese medicine and is used for enhancing the immune system functions, as well as fighting colds and upper respiratory tract infections. Evidence to support the above functions Is however limited.

Cautionary Note

Though you may find quick fixes, to provide you with quicker results, but just remember, everything quick and easy has always been temporary. Hence, do not self-medicate. Visit a physician and/or dietitian to find out if you need any herbal supplement. A balanced diet and lifestyle modifications Is the key to long-term good health.

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