Natural Supplements: All You Need to Know
The big myth is that natural supplements will counter an unhealthy lifestyle. The bad news is that if you smoke, drink too much, live on a diet of junk food and laze around all day, a multivitamin is not going to be a cure-all. However, those who exercise, eat a low-fat diet and five portions of fruit and/or vegetables will benefit from natural supplements. As the name suggests, these vitamins and minerals supplement, or top-up, what may be lacking.
Plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Medieval monks in Europe all had their own herb gardens and were the apothecaries of their day. Chinese herbal traditions go back even further. Garlic was used for thinning the blood, echinacea for preventing colds and ginkgo for improving memory. They have all been used safely for centuries. However, those taking prescribed medication should be aware that natural supplements are potent and mixing them with pharmaceuticals can alter the expected results or create interactions. Always consult your doctor before mixing medications and supplements.
Herbal Supplements and the FDA
Natural supplements are not governed like drugs, as they are not drugs at all. However, they can be just as potent and those taking daily supplements should understand what checks are in place to maintain standards and support good health.
Manufacturers of natural supplements do not need the approval of the FDA before putting their products on the market. They are not subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and are not as strictly regulated as medications. You should be particularly careful of starting a new regime of natural supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have chronic medical conditions or are on medications.
The FDA has rules concerning dietary supplements that allow manufacturers to claim a product supports health or addresses a deficiency. However, the manufacturer must make a disclaimer that the FDA has not evaluated the claim.
Herbal supplement companies must follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and meet quality standards. GMPs ensure the right ingredients are included to match the product label and ensure that dangerous substances, such as lead, are kept out. Once a product is on the market, the FDA monitors it for safety and has the power to remove it if deemed dangerous.
The FDA requires natural supplement labels to show the name of the supplement, the name and address of the distributor or manufacturer, a complete list of ingredients and the serving size, amount and active ingredients. This makes it easy to compare similar products from different brands or research more information.
The best protection is to buy natural supplements from a reputable supplier who has been in the market for many years and has a good reputation. Buy from a company that has good information available on its products, is willing to answer questions and backs up its products with a fair, money-back guarantee.