Are Dietary and Herbal Supplements Safe for Your Health?
Dietary supplements are plants and minerals that have the reputation of providing benefits to human health. People have used these herbal supplements for centuries to relieve pain, aid digestion, improve memory and provide additional minerals needed in a person’s diet. Even though herbal supplements can be beneficial, they require some investigation and caution by the user. People tried to can them in pills.
Dietary and herbal supplements are generally inexpensive, easy to find and sold over the counter in many places. Their long use has provided health benefits and medicines to many people. Their use is in the form of tea, capsules, tinctures or tablets. Many medicines approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) also use plant and herbal components as a basis for their formulas.
These supplements can be beneficial and consumed by many people without harm. However, the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act loosened the restrictions on supplement manufacturers.
Now, supplement regulations fall under the Federal Trade Commission rather than the FDA. It allows herbal supplement manufacturers to be responsible to certify the products safety, recommend dosage levels and be responsible that the product performs as advertised.
Manufacturers can do this without independent verification. The statements on herbal products can’t be specific. If a general statement on the label states the supplement improves health it will not be examined by the FDA. If it states that it prevents heart attacks it falls under FDA regulation. If it becomes apparent that an herbal supplement is dangerous, the FDA has the authority to ban the supplement.
But that still does not help if the herbal supplements are useless and are just a way of making money for the companies producing them. Ginkgo Biloba, Saint John’s Wort, Echinacea and other popular herbal supplements have been found to be relatively useless to help the conditions they are advertised to help. The American Medical Association Journal published a study of Ginkgo Biloba in 2009 that found that it had no qualities to improve memory or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. While this may cause people to waste money on something that is ineffective, it is worse if the supplement does harm.
Store clerks may recommend these products with no medical training other than what they read in an advertisement, or on the back of the bottle. This can be dangerous a lot of times, and there’s no way to know what will happen when taking a new supplement.
While generally, herbal supplements are at the very least not harmful, it is never a bad thing to double check that with an officially approved lab, government agency or pharmaceutical company – it’s better to stay safe than be sorry!