Herbal medicine is a tried and true aspect of modern medicine. There is a litany of different herbs which are available as oral supplements. Here, we take a brief look at herbal medicine, and discuss five worthwhile herbal supplements that often go unheralded, and even unnoticed.
Herbs: The Diverse Realm of Natural Medicine
Herbal medicine is older than modern medicine, borne out of the traditional medicinal practices of civilizations in the east, such as China and India. Today, we know that hundreds of different herbs have effective medical applications because of accumulated traditional knowledge, as well as modern scientific study.
Most of the uses for herbal supplements pertain to minor ailments and chronic illnesses, rather than life-threatening conditions. There are clear advantages in some cases to using herbal remedies in place of pharmaceutical medications, which can produce unwanted side effects. Herbal supplements are also usually more affordable, and are a more personalized means to address an ailment.
Five Valuable, Lesser-Known Herbal Supplements
There are so many herbal supplements on the market, that some of them get overlooked. You've probably heard of MVPs (most valuable products) such as turmeric and garlic, but not others that could be just as beneficial. Here is a look at five of the most underrated supplements you can find, and their potential benefits.
Hawthorn extract can support the heart. Hawthorn is derived from the flowers, leaves, and berries of the hawthorn shrub. It contains antioxidant polyphenols, and can fight oxidative damage that is linked to a number of health issues. Hawthorn is best known for improving the health of those who've previously experienced heart failure, or are at risk for it. The antioxidant substances can help dilate blood cells and improve blood flow, as well as support the health of blood cells.
Horse chestnut extract comes from a plant with the same name, native to the Balkan Peninsula. Like hawthorn extract, horse chestnut extract is useful because of its potential to improve blood flow, and for its antioxidant properties. It is recommended for relieving the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition that causes edema, pain, and itching in the legs. It can also be taken to mitigate varicose veins. This is because of its antioxidant properties as well as its ability to combat inflammation related to CVI and varicose veins.
Siberian root comes from the Siberian ginseng herb, native to Russia and China. It was one of the first herbs to be referred to as an adaptogen in modern medicine, meaning that it can help the body adapt to environmental stressors. These include the elements (e.g. heat, cold), as well as infections and sustained physical trauma. It can increase alertness, endurance, and energy levels in the face of stress. Siberian ginseng also has the potential to positively impact the immune system, and this benefit is being further studied.
Alfalfa leaves: The alfalfa plant is harvested and used predominantly as livestock feed. However, the leaves of the alfalfa plant can confer certain benefits to us humans. Alfalfa contains saponins, compounds which are known to lower cholesterol levels, by decreasing cholesterol absorption in the gut. Alfalfa is also an antioxidant. Taking alfalfa leaves could potentially combat oxidative damage which damages cells and cell DNA.
Barley grass refers to the leaves of the barley plant, and these are made into a barley grass powder supplement. It is rich in various nutrients including fiber and vitamins A, C, and K. Studies have shown that the fiber in barley grass could reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which is helpful for those with diabetes. Barley grass also contains heart-healthy compounds such as saponarin and tryptophan, which can diminish negative cholesterol, blood pressure, and bodily inflammation.
When you look at herbal supplements, it can take some time to find those that could best help you. Consider the supplements on this list for their benefits to cardiovascular health, stress management, and more. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking a supplement for the first time, or if it has been a long time since last including it on your regimen of daily vitamins and supplements.