This is a handout I wrote for my patients at the office, since I get questions about this a lot and many come in on multiple over-the-counter supplements already:
What you need to know: Herbs and dietary supplements may not be safe to use even though they come from natural sources. They may not work the way they claim to. Many have not yet been tested in a scientific way. They may have side effects. They may interact with your other medications. They may be very expensive and may not give you much or any benefit.
Many pills and capsules sold as herbal “supplements” contain little more than powdered rice and house plants. An investigation found that nearly four of five herbal supplements do not contain the ingredients listed on labels, and many supplements—tested from among leading store-brand products sold at GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens—contain no plant substance of any kind at all. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements, but the regulations are different and much less strict than those for prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
What I personally recommend (if it’s not on this list, I don’t recommend it):
Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that are beneficial. In some cases, dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less-than-recommended amounts, for example, in those who are vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian. Look for USP label to ensure quality.
Calcium: should be taken daily in doses of 1000-1600 mg for osteopenia and osteoporosis, and when someone is dairy free or does not get much dairy. Adequate calcium as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life. Calcium is better absorbed by bones if Vitamin D level is adequate
Vitamin D: should be taken daily in doses of 2000-5000 i.u. for osteopenia and osteoporosis, and when someone is dairy free, does not get much dairy, or does not get much sun. Adequate vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life. Eating wild caught fish twice a week and losing belly fat seems to help raise Vitamin D levels too.
Probiotics: found in dietary supplements, certain yogurts, and kefir. Contain potentially beneficial bacteria and/or yeast which may restore the natural balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract. Helpful when taking antibiotics to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Need to have both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium with 10 billion CFUs daily – should start with antibiotics and continue for a week after antibiotic course is completed. One brand that meets these criteria is Florajen
Omega-3 fatty acids/Fish oil: helpful with treating high triglyceride lipid levels and low HDL levels. May help decrease risk of heart disease. May help relieve depression. Dose is 1-4 grams a day. Krill oil is the most potent and better absorbed. Caution – if you have a blood clotting disorder, they can increase your bleeding risk.
Biotin: helpful for hair and nail growth at dose of 5000 mcg daily- make sure you check the “serving size” on back of pill bottle (if that doesn’t work enough, may try marine complex supplements which may help with hair growth per recent medical research “Viviscal Hair Growth Program”)
Iron: ferrous sulfate – helpful for iron deficiency anemia; may help with restless leg syndrome. Take with vitamin C to improve absorption. Vitron-C contains both iron and Vitamin C but if cost is a factor, you can take your iron at the same time as eating a citrus fruit
Glucosamine/chondroitin: may help with arthritis pain in some people
Magnesium: is helpful for constipation. may be helpful for leg cramps. Best form is Magnesium Glycinate, dose is 400-800mg daily at bedtime.
Ginger: may help with nausea
CoQ10: found to be helpful in patients with heart failure at dose of 100mg 3x a day. May help with heart health otherwise. May also help with muscle pain associated with taking a statin drug or from strenous exercise
Flaxseed, Chia seeds, and coconut oil: first 2 give added fiber, all help with constipation and may help with decreasing lipid levels
Alpha Lipoic acid: A few studies have suggested that alpha-lipoic acid supplements may enhance the body’s ability to use its own insulin to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. ALA may help reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, the nerve damage that can be caused by diabetes – dose is 600mg twice a day
As always with my blog posts, I invite you readers to comment and ask questions…if you have a favorite herbal supplement that’s not on the list, send me the information of its studied efficacy and I may add it to the list 🙂