Botanical supplements have been used for thousands of years for a variety of ailments and conditions. They can be taken in a variety of forms to include: capsules, tablet, gel-caps, teabags and powders. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 80% of the world population still uses botanicals to treat diseases.
Botanicals are leaves, seeds, bark and stems of plants and whole dried plants that are sold for medicinal purposes. They are often distributed in crude form or in a concentrated blend of various ingredients. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in the United States, approximately 42% of the population reports using botanicals as dietary supplements.
Botanicals have been around for a long time, and according to this research, they are still popular today.
These supplements are frequently tested in order to meet specific guidelines before they can be classified as dietary supplements in America.
In 1994, Congress enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. This legislation outlined certain requirements that need to be met for botanical supplements:
- They must be intended to supplement the diet.
- They must be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet or liquid.
- They must have a label on the front that advertises them as a dietary supplement.
- They can’t be represented as a conventional food item.
It is important to note that botanicals are not always required to be standardized in the United States prior to distribution. While standardization provides quality content for manufacturers, it doesn’t mean that the procedure is always followed.
Many botanicals can cause a wide variety of side effects. It’s always best to consult with your doctor if you are uncertain of the potential side effects, or if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
Additionally, botanical supplements are sold in many different doses and have a wide variety of chemical make-ups. For this reason, it’s important to know if the ingredients of botanical supplements interact with other herbs or medications that you are currently taking.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, botanical companies are not required to provide pre-marketing approval that complies with the United States Food and Drug Administration; however, most reputable botanical companies will use excepted manufacturing practices that are regulated by the National Institute of Health Centers for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research.
Side Effects of Botanical Supplements
Most all medications have potential side effects. This is also true for botanicals. Examples of possible side effects include, but are not limited to the following:
- Skin rash
- Upset stomach
There are many different botanicals that are available on the market. Do your homework and find out which ones may be best suited for your needs. Here’s a list of some common botanicals that are sold today:
- Garlic- Frequently used as a natural antibiotic
- Ginseng- Used as a stimulant
- St. John’s Wort- Used as a stress reliever and as an antidepressant
- Echinacea- Used to support immune function and as a remedy against infections
- Ginkgo Biloba- Used as a cognitive aid to enhance memory
- Dandelion- Used to treat kidney and liver disorders
- Centaury- Used to help digestive problems
This is just a source sample of frequently used botanicals. A visit to your local health food store will reveal a wide variety of supplements and associated educational material.
Benefits of Botanical Supplements
According to Perdue University, over 150 million Americans consume botanical supplements on of regular basis. What are some of the benefits of these popular alternative medicines?
- Low cost compared to prescription drugs
- Successful results for many people
- They are available without prescription
- They help the consumer feel a sense of control over their own medicinal plan
Before you take a botanical supplement, it’s important to know the potential safety precautions associated with the product and any relevant information regarding the manufacturer’s reputation.
Many companies offer products that are well researched and that comply with good manufacturing standards; however, there are some companies that will try to save money by cutting corners.
You can alleviate these concerns by purchasing botanical supplements from a reputable source. Also, the dose of botanicals, like all drugs, needs to be properly followed. Carefully comply with the manufacturers dosing instructions and don’t exceed the recommended dose without the advice from your healthcare provider.