Herbs are a common ingredient in many diet pills and supplements. But, what do you know about herbs? Here’s a list of the most widely used natural herbs in dietary supplements.
Aloe Vera, also known as aloe barbadensis, is a plant that can be grown in most locations, and is used both orally and topically.
*Aloe Vera has traditionally been used to treat minor topical burns, sunburns and psoriasis. It can be used as a topical cream or ointment, and is available in many products, such as lotions and sunblock. Aloe Vera can also be used directly from the plant itself to treat topical burns.
*The FDA has recently approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring, and can be taken as a dried substance, called latex, by mouth.
*Aloe latex has very strong laxative compounds, which may aid in weight loss.
*While the use of a topical aloe vera gel have not had any reported side effects, abdominal cramping and diarrhea have been reported by those who have used it orally.
*Bilberry, a relative of the blueberry, has been used for centuries for baking and for medicinal purposes.
*Bilberry has been used to treat issues such as diarrhea, scurvy, menstrual cramping and varicose veins.
*The bilberry plant’s fruit can be either eaten or made into an extract, and the leaves are often made into teas.
*Some studies have claimed that the fruit improves night vision, but other scientific studies have claimed that this is not true.
*Bilberry fruits are considered to be safe when eaten in regular amounts that are typically found in foods. High doses are not recommended because of possible side effects. Dry mouth and upset stomach are two common side effects of this herb.
*Black cohosh, also known as black snakeroot or rattleroot, is an herb used to treat menopausal symptoms in women.
*Black cohosh has been used for arthritis, muscle pains, in the treatment of hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. It has also been used for vaginal dryness and to induce labor.
*Black cohosh stems and roots are used fresh, or they may be dried to make into a strong tea, pill or capsule. They are taken orally.
*An NCCAM-funded research program found that this herb failed to provide relief to women in menopause or post-menopause. Studies are mixed as to the effectiveness of this herb.
*Side effects of black cohosh includes stomach pains, headaches and rash. Women who have a liver disorder should not take this herb. Rare side effects of hepatitis have been reported due to the taking of black cohosh.
Cat’s Claw is a woody vine that has been used to treat diseases in South America for centuries.
*Cat’s Claw has been used for many health issues, such as herpes, arthritis and cancer. It is used to support a person’s immune system and promotes good kidney health.
*The inner bark of this woody vine is extracted to make liquid extracts, teas, pills and capsules.
*Some studies have shown a possible health benefit for those suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Newer research may show that cat’s claw affects the brain, which may lead to different research avenues for Alzheimer’s disease.
*When taken at the recommended dosage, few side effects have been reported. Rarely, headaches, vomiting and vertigo may occur.
*Chasteberry is a fruit that comes from a small, shrub-like tree, which is found in the Mediterranean region.
*Chasteberry is used in many weight loss products made typically for women. It has also been used to help ease menstruation problems and to help stimulate a woman’s production of breast milk.
*The dried fruit of the berry is used for liquid extracts, capsules and tablets.
*Studies have shown that chasteberry may work for menstrual symptoms, but studies are inconclusive for weight loss success.
*Chasteberry may cause side effects such as vertigo, rashes and stomach problems. Chasteberry may also affect certain levels of hormones in women.
*Cranberry leaves and fruits have long since been used to treat a plethora of issues, such as wounds and diarrhea.
*Cranberry extracts and juices have been used for years to prevent or treat urinary act infections. Recently, cranberries have been shown to contain certain acids that may be useful in dissolving the fatty deposits in the body.
*Cranberry extracts are taken in the form of pills, capsules and liquid form. Pure cranberry juice may be bought in any grocery store, and is a popular juice choice.
*Research has shown that cranberry extracts and juice may have an effect on those suffering from urinary tract infections.
*Side effects may include upset stomach, excessive urination and heartburn.
Dandelion is a flower that grows in many regions. The greens are edible and provide many medicinal uses.
*Dandelion has been used to treat many issues, such as liver disease, digestive problems and some skin conditions. Many people now use dandelion as a liver or kidney toxin, and to help promote weight loss. Since dandelion is a natural diuretic, it can help users to lose water weight.
*The leaves and root of the dandelion are used either fresh or dried to make teas, capsules and extracts. Some people eat dandelion leaves in salads or cooked, and the flowers may be used as a wine.
*Studies have shown no evidence for dandelions as treatments for medical issues.
*Dandelion, used in extracts or in it’s natural state, have shown no serious side effects. Rare incidents of diarrhea and upset stomach have been reported.
Echinacae is an herb that is native to the US and Canada, and is commonly used for medicinal purposes.
*Echinacae is used commonly to treat the symptoms of colds and flus, and is also used as a prevention against both illnesses. It is believed to stimulate the immune system, which in turn helps fight infections. It is also found in some weight loss products.
*The plants and roots of echinacae are dried to make various teas and extracts, and the herb is found in many over-the-counter medicines.
*Studies have been mixed when trying to prove that this herb is effective in preventing or treating respiratory tract infections.
*Gastrointestinal side effects were most commonly found in those taking echinacae. Rashes and increased asthma have also been reported. People who may experience allergic reactions to related plants, such as daises and ragweed, should practice caution when taking this herb.
Ephedra is a shrub like plant native in the areas of Central Asia and Mongolia. Ephedra has a powerful active ingredient, known as ephedrine, which stimulates the heart and nervous system.
*Ephedra has been in use for years to treat illnesses such as flu, headaches, nasal congestion and asthma. It has gained popularity as an active ingredient in many weight loss supplements, dietary aids and performance enhancing drinks and pills.
*The stems and the leaves of the plant are taken and dried to create extracts, pills, teas and tablets.
*The FDA has stated that Ephedra can promote short-term weight loss. A higher rate of side effects, however, has been reported with use of this herb.
*Side effects can include the following: dry mouth, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, tremors, restlessness, anxiety and nausea. The use of Ephedra may also cause seizures, psychosis and stroke. Caution should be used when taking Ephedra. Pregnant or nursing women should not take this herb.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil contains an essential fatty acid known as GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid, and has been used for centuries for various women’s health issues.
*Evening primrose oil has been used for eczema, inflammation, breast pain due to menstrual cycles, and PMS symptoms. It is now being used to help aid weight loss, as the GLA in the herb is a needed fatty acid that helps the body maintain good health.
*The oil of the evening primrose is extracted out of the seeds, and usually ingested by capsule.
*Study results have concluded that evening primrose oil does have benefits when used for eczema, breast pains and rheumatoid arthritis. Along with proper diet and exercises, ingesting a supplement of evening primrose oil may help achieve moderate weight loss.
*Side effects may include mild upset stomachs and headaches. This herb is generally tolerated well by those who take it.
Feverfew is an herb that grows throughout both North and South America, as well as Europe. It is also known as featherfew.
*Feverfew has been used by many for headaches, fevers, toothaches and stomach aches, and most recently to help with medial issues such as migraine headaches and arthritis. It contains an active compound which prevents the restriction of the blood vessels that are responsible for migraines.
*The dried leaves, flowers and stems are used to produce feverfew supplements, which are made into liquid extracts and capsules, as well as teas. The leaves may also be eaten fresh.
*Research has shown that feverfew can help prevent migraines, and can help with the milder symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
*Some side effects, such as canker sores, loss of taste, and swelling around the lips have been reported. Caution should be taken by those who are already allergic to other plants found in the daisy family, as they may have a higher risk of being allergic to feverfew.
Flaxseed/ Flaxseed Oil
*Flaxseed is a seed derived from the flax plant, which is found throughout the northwestern United States, as well as Canada. The oil is derived from the seeds themselves.
*The herb flaxseed is commonly used as a laxative, for hot flashes, breast tenderness and arthritis. It is also used as an antioxidant that helps promote weight loss. The oil helps to boost a person’s metabolism, which along with proper diet and exercise, can help them lose weight.
*Flaxseed can be sprinkled on food, taken in a powder form, and is also available in capsule form.
*Studies have shown that flaxseed has a laxative effect, which does aid in weight loss. Mixed results have been reported on the use of flaxseed in reducing pain from other symptoms, such as the aforementioned hot flashes, breast pains and arthritis.
Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are well-tolerated, with few side effects. The most common side effect is diarrhea.
Garlic comes from the lily family, and is the edible part of the plant that has been used for centuries as both a spice and as a medicine.
*Garlic is most commonly used for cooking. However, it has been put to use for medicinal purposes, such as for weight loss. Garlic contains a compound called allican, that has antibacterial effects which helps reduce the unhealthy fats in the body.
*Garlic is eaten either raw or cooked. It can also be taken in pill or capsule form.
*There have been some studies that have shown that consuming garlic can lower the cholesterol levels,, as well as high blood pressure.
*Garlic is a safe to eat. More common side effects are: bad breath, body odor, and upset stomach. These side effects occur more with the consumption of raw garlic than with the supplement forms.
Ginger is a plant that produces an aromatic stem, known as a rhizome. It is used for both cooking purposes and as a herbal supplement.
*Ginger has been routinely used to help treat stomach aches, nausea, arthritis, joint pain and bouts of mild diarrhea. It helps aid those who are seeking weight loss by increasing the metabolism and improving gastric functions, as well as increasing bile excretion.
*The stems of the ginger plant are typically used for cooking and baking, and can also be made into liquid extracts, tablets, teas and capsules.
*Studies on the use of ginger have shown that it can safely ease nausea and vomiting. Studies are inconclusive on the effectiveness of ginger when used to treat other issues, such as arthritis and joint pain.
*There have been few side effects reported with the use of ginger, the most common being gas, heartburn and nausea.
Ginko, which comes from the Ginko tree, one of the oldest kinds of trees in the world, has leaves that are rich in antioxidants. This herb also goes by the name ginkgo biloba.
*The leaves of the ginkgo tree are very rich in necessary antibiotics, and are commonly used to treat asthma, fatigue,and more commonly today, to improve memory. Some weight loss products have an active ingredient of gingko, which is said to boost the metabolism.
*Extracts are used from the leaf of the ginkgo to produce tablets, capsules and various teas. Ginkgo may also be found in some skin care products.
*Many studies have been done on the effectiveness of ginkgo on issues such as memory loss, with promising results.
*Side effects that have been reported with ginkgo have been headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and an increase in bleeding risks. Caution should be taken from those who have a scheduled surgery or dental procedure when taking ginkgo.
Asian ginseng has been used for many different treatments, and has been in use for centuries around the world for the healing properties many believe are associated with it.
*Ginseng is used to help boost up the immune system, lower blood pressure and treat erectile dysfunction. Ginseng is also used in many weight loss supplements to help boost the metabolism.
*The root of the Asian ginseng is dried out to make capsules, teas and extracts. It can also be used to make creams for external use.
*Studies have shown that lower blood glucose levels may occur from ginseng use. Ginseng may help those who are trying to lose weight by providing more energy and an increased metabolism.
*The most common side effects reported with the use of ginseng are headaches, upset stomach and allergic reactions.
Goldenseal is a popular plant that grows well in some areas of the US.
*Goldenseal helps aid in digestion, which can help those trying to lose weight. It is also used for ulcers, colds, respiratory tract infections, eye infections and for wounds.
*Goldenseal stems and roots are dried out to make teas, capsules and liquid extracts.
*There have not been many studies published on the effects that goldenseal has on those who take it.
*Goldenseal is well tolerated by most users. Some rare side effects, such as vomiting and upset stomach, have been reported. Caution should be taken by women who are pregnant or nursing when taking goldenseal.
Fresh leaves from the plant Camellia Sinensis are used to commonly make green tea.
*Green tea is used in the treatment of many medical issues, such as stomach and skin cancers. However, it has gained popularity in those who use it as a weight loss supplement.
*Green tea is typically brewed as a hot tea. However, green tea products are also sold in pill and tablet form.
*There has not been enough evidence to support the claim that green tea is effective for weight loss. However, NCCAM supports to learn more on it’s effectiveness, and the industry for green tea is a large one, with many polls showing that users say green tea works for weight loss.
*Green tea is a safe herb that is tolerated well by most adults. Caffeine is an active ingredient in many green teas, so caution should be taken by those who are sensitive to caffeine.
Hawthorn is an herb native to the northern European areas, as well as grown throughout the world.
*The Hawthorn fruit has been used for years for kidney and digestive problems, as well as aiding those with heart failure. It is also used as a weight loss aid, as it helps in the reduction of water retention by shedding the body of excess salt.
*The leaf and flower of the hawthorn plant is used with water and alcohol to make liquid extracts. It can also be dried to make tablets and capsules.
*There has been scientific evidence that has shown that hawthorn is both a safe and effective herb for milder issues of heart failure.
*Hawthorn is a safe herb when used for small periods of time. Some side effects can include headache, vertigo and nausea. Caution should be taken by those who are taking other medications.
Horse chestnuts, also known as buckeyes, are grown all over the Northern Hemisphere.
*The horse chestnut is used for hemorrhoids, varicose veins and nighttime leg cramping.
*The horse chestnut seed is extracted and used for capsules and tablets. Horse chestnut topical ointments are also used for treatments.
*Scientific studies have shown that the seed extracts from horse chestnuts are beneficial when treating varicose veins. Studies have shown that this herb may be just as effective as compression stockings.
*Raw or unprocessed horse chestnut seeds and leaves are poisonous, and should not be ingested. Some side effects from the herb may include itching, upset stomach and gastrointestinal upset.
Kava is a member of the pepper family, and can be found among the islands of the South Pacific.
*Kava is generally used for anxiety and tension problems, insomnia and menopausal symptoms. Some believe that it helps aid in weight loss, since it fights depression, which is a leading cause of weight gain.
*The underground stem of the plant is used to make extracts, drinks, tablets and capsules. Topical solutions of kava can also be made.
*While scientific studies have shown some evidence that kava can help manage stress and anxiety, the FDA has warned of the risk of severe liver damage from it’s use.
*Kava side effects have been reported as severe, such as liver damage, hepatitis and liver failure. It has also been associated with a few cases of dystonia, which is abnormal muscle spasms. Caution should be taken when driving or operating heavy equipment when taking kava, as it can cause drowsiness.
Licorice root has long been used by both Western and Eastern systems for various medicinal purposes.
*Licorice root has been used as a supplement to help treat issues such as stomach ulcers, sore throats and bronchitis. It has also been used in various weight loss products, as it is believed to help in blending the supplements together.
*Licorice root is available in both powdered and dried forms, along with capsules, tablets and in liquid form.
*While studies have shown that an injectable form of liquid extract is effective for those suffering from hepatitis C, it has not been made available in the US.
*In high amounts, licorice root can contribute to high blood pressure and low potassium levels. Those with high blood pressure should use caution when taking this supplement.
Milk thistle is an herb that is found among the Mediterranean region, and has been used for centuries for various ailments.
*Milk thistle is thought to have protective effects on a user’s liver, helping to improve it’s function. Milk thistle is used to treat liver cirrhosis and liver inflammation, as well as gallbladder disorders. It is also used as a weight loss aid, as it helps to flush fats and other unnecessary toxins from out of the liver.
*The seeds of the plant are used to produce capsules, powders and extracts.
*Scientific studies have shown that milk thistle can help in protecting the liver by promoting the growth of liver cells and fighting against oxidation.
*Milk thistle is well tolerated in most patients who follow the recommended dosage. Those who have diabetes or hypoglycemia should use caution when taking this herb, as it can lower blood sugar levels.
This plant, usually well known as a holiday decoration, is actually an herb used to treat a variety of conditions.
*For many years, mistletoe has been used to treat headaches and seizures. In Europe, mistletoe may be used to help treat cancer.
*Extracts can be developed from the leafy shoots and the berries of the mistletoe plant.
*Studies have shown that mistletoe helps to kill cancerous cells and can stimulate the immune system. Over 30 clinical trials have been conducted throughout Europe to provide this information.
*Unprocessed mistletoe is poisonous, and can cause vomiting, seizures and even death. Mistletoe should not be used without the supervision of a doctor.
Red clover, also known as wild clover and meadow clover, contains a compound that is similar to the hormone estrogen.
*Red clover has been used for respiratory problems, asthma and bronchitis. It has also been used to aid weight loss, as clover has properties of a diuretic. It has also been used to treat discomfort cause by the menstrual cycle.
*The tops of the red clover are used to prepare tablets, teas and liquid forms of the herb.
*Some small clinical studies have shown that red clover may be useful for menopausal symptoms. It has also helped those who use it as a diuretic to flush out water and relieve bloating.
*Short term red clover use poses no known side effects. However, red clover does contain estrogen-like compounds, so caution should be exercised if taking this herb for long periods, as the risk of developing cancer within the lining of the uterus can increase.
Saw Palmetto is a type of palm tree that bears fruit that has been used for many medicinal purposes.
*Saw palmetto has been used mostly for urinary symptoms that are common for those suffering from an enlarged prostate gland.
*The ripe fruit of the tree can be ground up and dried to make capsules, tablets and liquid extracts, as well as tea.
*Some studies have shown that saw palmetto is effective in treating BPH symptoms.
*Stomach discomfort has been associated with the use of saw palmetto. Other than that, this herb is generally well-tolerated.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort, a plant also known as hypericum, has been used for years in Europe for mild depression.,
*St. John’s Wort has been in practice for centuries for mild depression and nerve pain, as well as for anxiety and sleep disorders. Recently, it has also been used as a weight loss aid, as many doctors believe that by combating depression, the need to eat diminishes, as weight gain is a sign of depression.
*St. John’s Wort is taken in capsule form, tablets and teas, as well as in some topical applications.
*There has been scientific studies that have shown that this herb is helpful in treating anxiety and depression.
*Side effects may include sensitivity to sunlight, fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth and interactions with other medications, such as birth control pills.
Valerian is a medicinal herb that has been in use since ancient times of Rome and Greece.
*Valerian is a natural diuretic that helps to stimulate and cleanse the digestive system, and is used in many weight loss products. It has also been used for many sleep disorders and for those suffering from anxiety.
*The underground stems of the plant are used in the making of the herbals capsules and tablets. Valerian can also be drunk as a tea.
*Some research has suggested that those suffering from insomnia can benefit from this herb. As a natural diuretic, it has been proven to work well.
*Side effects may include nausea, upset stomach and headaches.