For centuries, cultures around the world have banked on traditional herbal medicine to meet their healthcare needs. Despite medical and technological advancements, the global demand for herbal supplements is on the rise. Statistics have estimated that this industry grosses about $60 billion annually. Some herbal supplements may be more affordable and accessible than conventional, orthodox medicines, and many people prefer using them because they align with their personal health ideologies.
Here are some of the best, most famous herbal supplements, including their main benefits, uses, and relevant safety information.
Also known as the coneflower. Originally and naturally from North America, it has been used for a long time by Native Americans to treat various ailments, including wounds, burns, toothaches, sore throat, and stomach aches. Most parts of the plant, including petals, leaves and roots are medicinal, but most native believe the roots have the most potent effect. Coneflower is mostly taken as a supplement or tea but can also be used topically. Presently, it is suitabe for treating or preventing the common cold. Unfortunately, the science behind its potential is not very strong. Although there’s insufficient evidence to back it up, short term usage is considered safe. Few side effects have been recorded, including nausea, stomach pain, and skin rash.
This is a medicinal plant whose roots are usually dried to make powder or steeped to make tea. It is prevalent amongst the Chinese to reduce inflammation and boost brain function, immunity, and energy levels. Several varieties exist, but the two most popular ones are grown in Asia and America — Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius, respectively. The Asian variant is considered more stimulating, while the American variant is thought to cultivate relaxation. Although ginseng has been used for centuries, modern research supporting its efficiency is lacking. Several studies suggest that its unique compounds, called ginsenosides, boast neuro-protection, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and immune-supporting properties. Nonetheless, human research is not available yet. Short-term use by humans is considered safe, but its long-term effects remain a mystery. Side effects may include headache, poor sleep, and digestive issues.
Simply known as ginkgo. This is an herbal medicine derived from the maidenhair tree native to China. For thousands of years, ginkgo has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It contains various potent antioxidants that are considered to provide several health benefits. Traditionally, the seeds and leaves are used for teas and tinctures, but modern applications use leaf extracts recently. Some natives enjoyed eating the raw fruit and toasted seeds. However, the seeds are moderately toxic and should only be eaten in small quantities, if at all. Ginkgo is thought to cure ailments like heart disease, dementia, mental difficulties, and sexual dysfunction. It is tolerated by most people, but possible side effects include headache, heart palpitations, digestive issues, skin reactions, and an increased risk of bleeding.
This is an ancient herbal medicine typically made from the Sambucus nigra plant’s cooked fruit. It has been used to relieve headaches, nerve pain, cold, toothache, constipation, and viral infections. Presently, it is marketed to combat symptoms of flu and the common cold. Elderberry has been made available as lozenge and syrup, although there’s no standard dosage. Some prefer to make theirs into tea by mixing the syrup with other ingredients like honey and ginger. Some studies claim that the plant contains antioxidants, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, but human research is lacking. So it is considered safe on a short-term basis. The raw unripe elderberry is toxic and could cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Turmeric is an herb from the ginger family. It has been used for thousands of years for cooking and medicine alike. It has gathered fame among spices for its anti-inflammatory properties. The primary compound in turmeric is called Curcumin. Curcumin is used to treat various conditions, including chronic inflammation, pain, anxiety, and metabolic syndrome. Curcumin and turmeric supplements are considered safe to use for their effects, but very high doses of the two may cause diarrhea, skin irritation, and/or headache. Remember, you can also use turmeric in some dishes.
Probably the most popular herb on the planet. It is a common kitchen ingredient as well as herbal medicine. It can be eaten fresh or dried. Just like turmeric, ginger is a rhizome. These are shrubs that grow underground. It contains a wide array of beneficial compounds and has long been used in traditional and folk practices to treat colds, nausea, migraines, and high blood pressure. In modern times, it has been used for relieving pregnancy-associated nausea, medical operations, and chemotherapy. Ginger is a herb that is very tolerated. There are no officially recorded side effects, but heartburn and diarrhea have been linked to a high ginger intake.
Chamomile is a flowering plant that also happens to be one of the world’s most famous plants used as herbal supplements. Its flowers are often used to make tea, while the dried one is used for medical extract, topical compresses, and tea. For years, chamomile has been used to treat nausea, constipation, wounds, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and upper respiratory infections. This powerful herb packs more than 100 active compounds, which are responsible for its efficacy. It is safe for most people, but some might report allergic reactions.
Yes, there are many herbs and even countless benefits. Still, before racing to the supermarket to get these, it’s always best to contact your doctor or physician to recommend the proper usage and make sure you understand the potential side effects. Also, do enough research about herbal supplements before incorporating them into your diet. Because herbs are gotten from nature, many people assume they are safe, but that’s not the case. Just like orthodox medicine, herbal drugs may cause serious side effects or interfere with other medications you’re taking.