Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to choose herbal supplements?

Herb usually refers to a plant that grown for culinary, savory and even spiritual value. Traditionally, herbs are used to treat wide spectrum of health problems in China, India, Greek, and Roman. Many herbs are well known for their health benefits.

For example, Black Cohosh may improve symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, Ginseng helps boost immune system and energy, Evening Primrose is very beneficial for symptoms of PMS. Today, there is increased interest and popularity of herbal remedies. Many realized that many synthetic drugs have unpleasant side effects, and can be hazardous. Some of these drugs may not even be effective. Generally, herbs are used to maintain good health and are safer to use compare to drugs.

You need to be careful when you select herbal supplements. In U.S., herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug administration) as foods. The safety of the supplements and the accuracy of the labels are not guarantee. The manufacturers are fully responsible of the potency, efficacy and safety of the ingredients used. Many herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with metals, unlabeled prescription drugs, microorganisms, or other substances. Also, some herbal supplements are not scientifically formulated.

To choose the best quality herbal supplements:

  1. Look for supplements with standardize herbal extracts. This means that the supplements contain the active ingredients that are responsible for the health benefits.
  2. Each ingredient in the supplements must be supported by COA (Certificate of Analysis), which guarantees the potency and safety.
  3. The label of the supplements should contain following information: descriptive name of the product (e.g. Ginseng), net quantity contents (e.g. 100 tablets), net contents of the product, complete list of ingredients and amounts, disclaimer (“this statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”), name and address of the business of the manufacturer, expiration date. Note that the disclaimer mentioned above is required by law (DSHEA).
  4. Look for products that have been tested scientifically. Check if the ingredients of the supplements have been proven scientifically for their health benefits. You may obtain the information from the website of products, or you can email the manufacturers. Consult your doctor about the quality of the related research.
  5. Look for ingredients in products with the U.S.P. notation, which indicates the manufacturer followed standards established by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
  6. Make sure that the herbal supplements have good bioavailability. Much of the active ingredients of supplements are destroyed by the acid of the stomach. Choose the quality product that is not affected by this process so that all essential nutrients are absorbed by your body.
  7. Choose the herbal supplements with your health care provider who is profesionally trained in herbal medicine. Present the labels of the supplements to seek for their advises.
  8. Purchase from merchants has refund policy for unsatisfactory products.
  9. If you are targetting specific condition, it is best to buy herbal formulas that is theurapetic for that condition. Usually these herbal formulas contain few herbs that function synergistically. The primary herb targets specific ailment. Other supporting herbs enhance the primary herbs healing benefits and ensure overall effectiveness of the formula. Never mix and max your own’s herbs.

Reference: FDA, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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