Facts about 8 Common Nutritional Supplements
Black Cohosh (plant)
A promising remedy for menopausal symptoms (i.e. hot flashes, depression) but only limited small studies have been done. Does not contain any estrogen activity but works probably on brain dopamine receptors. Occas. mild adverse effects, dangerous at high doses. Purity and potency questionable. Typical dose is 40 mg daily.
DHEA (from yams, Dehydroepiandrosterone)
A steroid which claims to reverse the effects of aging (loss of muscle, memory and libido). It is widely banned from professional sporting venues. People with adrenal insufficiency showed improved overall well-being, depression, anxiety and sexuality. In healthy elderly men and women results showed improved bone turnover, improved skin health and decreased abdominal fat with increased insulin sensitivity. Serious adverse effects (some irreversible) including hypertension, voice changes, hair loss or growth and acne can occur. Purity and potency in question. Typical adult dose is 50 mg daily.
One of the most commonly used botanical agents, generally to enhance the immune system against upper respiratory infections. Does have positive laboratory effects on numerous immune cells. Many studies have been done with generally positive results. Overall generally safe. Should be used with caution in autoimmune disease. Purity and potency in question. Typical adult dose is 1-2 tsp daily.
shells of crabs(glucosamine) and from cow, pig or chicken cartilage (chondroitin). Nonbotanical dietary supplement used in joint pain. Helps the body stimulate production of important complex molecules found in joint fluid. Numerous studies show positive effects in reducing arthritic pain and longterm modification of the disease process (better than NSAIDs). Purity and potency generally good but less activity in "complex" or combination formulas. Very safe. Typical dose is 1500 mg daily.
Gingko Biloba (leaf extract)
Improves memory and memory disorders and treats vascular insufficiency. Multiple small and medium trials clinical trials (5 year NIH study underway) showing conflicting results. Overall "promising evidence" for improvement in cognition and function in older adults and people with dementia. Not studied in healthy young people. Overall good safety profile. Typical dose is 120-240 mg daily.
"microorganisms with therapeutic properties" or "healthy" bacteria which supplements the gut and vagina. For preventing travelers diarrhea or antibiotic associated diarrhea there are conflicting results but probably helpful. In patients with antibiotic-associated diarrhea, small studies showed a resolution of symptoms. There is significant evidence that probiotics decrease the number of days of diarrhea in children with acute diarrhea. Small studies in women with candida vaginitis also showed significant improvement of symptoms taking oral probiotic. Symptom improvement correlated with increased numbers of Lactobacillus in the gut. One small study showed a trend to improvement of symptoms in women with recurring urinary tract infections who took vaginal suppositories of probiotic. "Serious" lack of control regarding potency among products. Excellent safety profile. Typical adult dose is 7-15 billion live organisms (highly variable).
Saint Johns Wort (plant)
A "natural" treatment for mild to moderate depression with numerous chemicals which effect the brain. Serious herb-drug interactions have been reported and made it less popular. Numerous studies showing improvement of depression symptoms. Product quality and purity is variable. Needs close monitoring. Typical adult dose is 500 mg daily.
Saw Palmetto (the fruit of the date palm)
for use in BPH (i.e. non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland). Mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms and urinary flow with fewer side effects than traditional drugs. Has been shown to actually shrink the prostate gland. Product quality and purity is variable. Excellent safety profile. Typical adult dose is 1-2 gm whole berry daily (available in liquid also).