This article is only to provide the latest government and health guidance on several dietary supplements with great popularity in Western Countries. Most have been used for years as folk remedies around the world. However, that does not make them safe for you. Only your doctor can determine the safety of a supplement for you. If you are considering taking or are using any supplement inform your doctor. Many dietary supplements can have harmful effects, especially if they are taken in too large a quantity or if they interact with something else the person is taking.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a long-living plant that contains many chemical compounds. Those believed to produce the herb's effects on depression and the immune system include hypericin and hyperforin. How these compounds actually work in the body is not known, but several theories have been suggested. Preliminary studies suggest that St. John's wort might work by preventing nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing the chemical messenger serotonin, or by reducing levels of a protein involved in the body's immune system functioning.
There is some scientific evidence that St. John's wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression. However, recent studies suggest that St. John's wort is of no benefit in treating major depression of moderate severity.
In Europe, St. John's wort is widely prescribed for depression. In the United States is among the top-selling herbal products. In Europe, results from a number of scientific studies have supported the effectiveness of certain St. John's wort extracts for depression. An overview of 23 clinical studies found that the herb might be useful in cases of mild to moderate depression.
St. John's wort interacts with some drugs including certain drugs used to control HIV infection, or chemotherapeutic and other anticancer drugs. The herb may also interact with drugs that help prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs. People can experience side effects from taking St. John's wort. The most common side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and fatigue.
Remember, St. John's wort is not a proven therapy for major depression.
Black cohosh (known as both Actaea racemosa and Cimicifuga racemosa) is a member of the buttercup family native to North America. Other common names include black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, and rattleweed, Insects avoid it, which accounts for some of these common names.
Preparations of black cohosh are made from its roots and rhizomes (underground stems).
Black cohosh was used in North American Indian medicine for malaise, gynecological disorders, kidney disorders, malaria, rheumatism, and sore throat. It was also used for colds, cough, constipation, hives, and backache and to induce lactation
Black cohosh is used primarily for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. In 2001, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that black cohosh may be helpful in the short term (6 months or less) for women with vasomotor symptoms of menopause, although they backed off on actually recommending black cohosh for menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh has not been reported to interact with any drugs, however, this has not been rigorously studied. Clinical trials comparing estrogens with black cohosh preparations have shown a low incidence of adverse effects associated with black cohosh; headaches, gastric complaints, heaviness in the legs, and weight problems.
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