Most Popular Health Supplements

As alternative health supplements become more widely accepted and available, millions of Americans choose to include them as part of their daily health regimen. Many are turning to supplements as a way to boost their immune systems, improve bodily functions and help their bodies heal more naturally.

A recent U.S. government survey, conducted as part of the National Health Interview Survey, found that 38 per cent of adults, and about 12 per cent of children, regularly take some health supplement. The most common conditions for adults using supplements are arthritis, back and neck pain, joint pain, and other musculoskeletal ailments.

According to the survey, the five most popular health supplements used by Americans are:

Fish Oil

Available in capsule or liquid form, fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids contain DHA for a healthy nervous system, EPA for a healthy cardiovascular system and anti-inflammatory properties, and vitamin A for good vision and healthy skin.

Studies show that regularly consuming fish oil can have many benefits. It can ease pain and inflammation, protect the heart, help regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and improve mental concentration. It also is used to treat depression and ADHD, arthritis, inflammatory bowel and colitis.

Be sure to find a brand that is free of PCBs, mercury and other chemical contaminants. Large quantities of fish oil contain too much vitamin A, which can be toxic in high doses.

Glucosamine

This nutrient is usually taken in pill or powder form. Its principal function is to build connective tissue and healthy cartilage. It also helps form protective tissues that cushion joints against excessive wear and tear.

Glucosamine also relieves pain, swelling and tenderness while it helps rebuild stiff and worn out joint tissue. When used with chondroitin, it becomes even more powerful.

This supplement can cause heartburn, nausea and gastric pain in some people, so it should accompany by food. Studies do not show any toxicity from its long-term use, and it is safe to take with other supplements.

Echinacea

This herbal supplement, made from the purple cornflower, a native-American plant, can be taken in pills, powder, or liquid. It was first used in the United States in 1887 to treat minor infections but studied extensively in Germany since 1938.

Echinacea is believed to fight infection by boosting the immune system and attacking viruses, including influenza, herpes and polio. It has also shown some benefits against bacterial infections, frequently used to protect against viruses or clear up symptoms faster.

It can cause mild stomach upset or diarrhoea. If you are allergic to flowers, don’t take it. Experts warn against its use by people with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, and progressive illnesses like diabetes and AIDS. While there are no known reports of toxicity, you should only take it when needed.

Flaxseed oil

Flaxseed oil is from the seed of the flax plant. It is mostly in oil or capsule form. Like fish oil, it contains omega-3 fatty acids. Still, about 50 per cent of these fatty acids are in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, which experts believe is not as beneficial as the EPA and DHA found in fish oil.

Avoid taking flaxseed simultaneously as medications and other supplements as it can slow down their absorption. Because of its ALA content, people with either diabetes, muscular degeneration or schizophrenia should avoid this supplement.

Flaxseed products should be manufactured using fresh-pressed seeds, bottled in dark containers and processed at low temperatures. Be only supplements that are certified free of heavy metals.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a Chinese herb that has been used for thousands of years. It can be taken in liquid, powder and pill form or consumed as tea.

While ginseng is popular with athletes for increased energy and endurance, it is also believed to reduce fatigue and stress and help prevent infections. Other studies show ginseng could lower blood sugar and support cancer treatment.

Ginseng is a mild herb and is considered to be extremely safe when taken responsibly. Large doses of ginseng can cause nausea, high blood pressure, sleeplessness and restlessness.