Herbal Products

Herb

Possible Use

Precautions

Matricaria chamomilla

Internally for indigestion and as an anti-inflammatory. Externally for skin inflammations

Weak potential for allergic sensitization

Symphytum officinale

Externally for bruises and sprains (where skin is intact)

Taken internally, it contains traces of alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and cancer risk

Echinacea

Protects against colds

Possibility of an excessive immune response. Should not be used by persons with multiple sclerosis, AIDS, or tuberculosis

Ephedra-containing compounds Ma-huang

Stimulant

Headache, irritability, sleeplessness. High doses can cause dangerous increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Addictive over long periods

Allium sativum

May improve blood lipid levels (equal to 2 to 4 cloves a day)

Large quantities can lead to stomach complaints, rare skin allergic reaction

Zingiber officinale

For loss of appetite, travel sickness

Should not be taken with gallstone conditions

Ginkgo biloba

Improved blood flow to the brain and peripheral circulation; improvement in concentration and memory deficits

Mild gastrointestinal complaints, allergic skin reactions. Can change blood clotting; therefore, consult with physician if taking anticoagulant therapy

Panax ginseng

Tonic for fatigue and declining work capacity

High doses can cause sleeplessness, high blood pressure, and edema

Paullinia cupana

Stimulation due to caffeine-like content. Diuretic

Caution advised for persons with sensitivity to caffeine, renal diseases, hyperthyroidism, panic anxiety

Indian tobacco Lobelia inflata

Asthma treatment, stimulates respiratory center to open airways and ease breathing

High doses can cause convulsions, respiratory problems, and even death

Piper methysticum

Nervousness and insomnia

Gastrointestinal complaints, eye pupil dilation, and disorders of visual equilibrium. May interact with (enhance) other central nervous system substances, such as alcohol and barbiturates

Hypericum perforatum

For mild depression and anxiety

Digestive complaints of fullness or constipation. Sensitivity to sunlight in large doses. Consult with physician if taking antidepressant medications

Serenoa repens

Urinary problems in men with non-cancerous (benign) prostate enlargement. Does not reduce the enlargement

Use under a physician's supervision, not as a substitute for medical treatment

Pausinystalia yohimba

Used for sexual disorders, as an aphrodisiac, although it appears to be ineffective

Do not use if liver or kidney disease is present. Side effects include anxiety, increase in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, tremor, and vomiting. High doses can cause heart failure

  • If you have a medical condition, check with your health care provider before taking herbal supplements.
  • In addition, if you are taking medications, do not take herbal supplements before discussing them with your health care provider.

Supplement Sense

In general, high-dose vitamin or mineral supplements add little to our health and may in themselves cause illness. Those that contain more than 100 percent of your estimated daily needs may result in serious nutrient imbalances or even toxicity. Such imbalances do not occur when your source of vitamins comes from foods rather than supplements, because foods contain safe amounts of multiple nutrients, and ifyou follow the Food Guide Pyramid's recommended number of servings you will likely meet the recommended amounts for most nutrients.

As discussed earlier, most Americans, including athletes, consume considerably more protein than recommended, and more than their bodies can use. Protein or amino acid powders provide no benefit and are a poor substitute for protein-rich foods that contain necessary vitamins and minerals. Similarly, pills that promise to deliver all the fiber we need daily are a bad risk, because these pills invariably provide only one type of fiber, whereas each type of fiber found in foods of plant origin appears to confer unique health-promoting benefits. The fatty acids we need also are available in more than adequate amounts in various foods.

Who Needs a Vitamin or Mineral Supplement?

Eating a variety of foods, especially those of plant origin, allows most of us to acquire all the known nutrients, food substances, and as yet unidentified nutrients that our bodies need. Nevertheless, supplements may be appropriate for some individuals. Who are these people?

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women have an increased need for most vitamins and minerals. Folic acid is especially important early in pregnancy. Women who are capable of becoming pregnant should ensure that their daily intake of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods is 400 micrograms. These vitamins and minerals are contained in the prenatal supplements that are prescribed by your health care provider.
  • Older adults may absorb some nutrients poorly, particularly folate, vitamin B^, and vitamin D. They therefore may require supplements.
  • People on restricted diets may require supplements of some vitamins and minerals.
  • People with diseases of the digestive tract or other serious illnesses that limit their absorption of some vitamins and minerals may require supplements.
  • People taking prescription medications may have altered needs for a variety of nutrients.
  • Smokers appear to have an increased need for antioxidants, especially vitamin C. (However, even this increased requirement for vitamin C is easily satisfied by eating nutrient-rich foods.)
  • People who drink alcohol to excess may require supplements.
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Do Not Panic

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