Chances are, many of you are taking some type of herbal supplement. People turn to natural remedies for their health, such as ginseng for better energy, saw palmetto for prostate health, or echinacea for boosting the immune system.
In 2019, Americans spent an estimated $ 9.6 billion on herbal remedies. Consumers report a preference for natural products, increased awareness of preventive health care, and increased health and wellness spending as contributing factors in herbal purchases.
It’s important to understand that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Many herbal supplements interact with other medications, so talking to your health care provider before taking any herbal remedy is essential.
A man from Texas needed a liver transplant after taking green tea extract for a few months. It is not known whether he was taking the extract as directed. Drinking green tea is considered safe and some studies show positive results in preventing heart disease, although these studies are limited. Green tea extracts often contain high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that has been linked to liver damage when taken in high doses. The European Food Safety Assessment (EFSA) warns against taking EGCG in amounts greater than 800 mg / day, but has not established a safe dosage.
Supplements, vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way that medicine is. While the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) tests the potency, absorption, and validity of herbal supplements, this test is voluntary. Tests were done on herbal supplements which revealed contamination or that the product did not contain what it claimed. Look for the “USP verified” symbol on the bottle to ensure a wise purchase.
We live in a “let the buyer beware” society, so as with all products, be a savvy consumer of herbal remedies. ConsumerLab.com is a private company that independently tests herbal supplements and publishes the results. There is an annual subscription to join. The following websites will also help you make an informed decision:
- The website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/herbsataglance
- The National Institutes of Health Medline Plus website https://medlineplus.gov/druginformation.html
Until next time, be healthy!
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Its mission is to educate consumers on healthy and scientifically based food. Do you have a nutritional question? Email him today at [email protected] Dear Dietitian, does not endorse any product, health program or diet.