Without the proper oil, coolant, and other necessary fluids, you wouldn't drive your car. Similarly, you should only take herbal supplements after reading this first. The efficacy of herbal supplements is debatable, but their popularity is not.
Consumers spent $5 billion on them in 2016, and it's not showing signs of slowing down. With so many alternatives available, we wanted to give a quick explanation of what a herbal supplement is so you can know precisely what you're putting in your body.
What's in a herbal supplement?
An herbal supplement is a product that provides your body with specific health benefits. In most cases, they're made from plants that have been used traditionally to treat various ailments.
The ingredients in herbal supplements are usually standardized, which means they're extracted so that the concentration of the compound is consistent. The downside is that you need to get the whole plant. This can have both benefits, as well as drawbacks.
Let's take a look. Benefits of standardized extracts include:
- The ability to produce large quantities of a product at a lower cost.
- A consistent, predictable outcome.
- This means that there is a ton of research, clinical studies, and data available that show how a specific herb works, how safe it is, what dosage should be taken, etc.
- It is easy to regulate quality control.
Are herbal supplements safe?
This is the big question that everyone is asking, and rightfully so. Given that the FDA doesn't regulate herbal supplements, you're taking a risk when you decide to take them.
The good news is that, for the most part, herbal supplements are safe. The bad news is that because there aren't any regulations that govern their production, there's no guarantee that what's on the label is actually what you're getting.
Herbal supplements are regulated in the same way that dietary supplements are. The difference is that nutritional supplements are considered food products, while herbal supplements are regulated as drugs. The FDA evaluates herbal supplements as "unregulated drugs" because they're promoted and used as if they were pharmaceuticals.
Herbal supplement side effects
Unfortunately, there may be some side effects associated with herbal supplements. Of course, the severity of these side effects will depend on your specific herbal supplement. Among the most common are the following:
- Nausea - This can occur because some herbal supplements are meant to slow down your digestive system, which can cause nausea.
- Headache - A slowing of the digestive system can also cause this.
- Stomach cramps - This can even lead to bleeding in extreme cases.
- Abnormal or prolonged menstrual bleeding can occur if you take a product to regulate your menstrual cycle.
Are there any benefits to taking herbal supplements?
There are some benefits, but they aren't as extensive as pharmaceutical drugs. You can expect to treat mild conditions like colds, allergies, and gastrointestinal issues. There's also evidence that herbal supplements may even help treat anxiety.
The key to taking herbal supplements is to understand that they're meant to be used as a supplement to your usual medical treatment. They're not meant to replace prescription drugs, which means you shouldn't stop taking prescribed medications in favor of herbal supplements. Instead, it would help if you talked to your doctor about whether herbal supplements are right for you.
The bottom line is that herbal supplements can help treat certain conditions, but you must research to ensure you're taking the right accessory for your specific needs. In many cases, you're better off speaking with your doctor and asking whether herbal supplements are right for you.
If you're interested in taking herbal supplements, remember to research. Choose reputable brands thoroughly tested and verified by a third-party source. Additionally, you should only take the recommended dosage, as taking more could result in side effects and even pose serious health risks.