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5 Lesser-Known Supplements Everyone Should Be Taking

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by The Good Doctor, Feb 18, 2021.

  1. The Good Doctor

    The Good Doctor Golden Member

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    The Western world has likely only scratched the surface of natural treatments for disease. However, about 80% of the people in developing countries depend on these natural resources for medicines, according to an article in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Yet only 10% of all such plants have been investigated for therapeutic potential Moreover, many of these healthy plants—which could hold untold secrets involving novel phytoconstituents—are on the verge of extinction due to deforestation, habitat destruction, and unsustainable use.

    A number of lesser-known supplements, including those derived from plants, are currently on the market. Many are not aware that these natural products offer potential health benefits. Let’s consider the evidence-based benefits of five such supplements.

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    Moringa oleifera

    This fast-growing tropical plant species is native to northern India, but it also grows in southwest Asia, southwest Africa, northwest Africa, and Madagascar. In Ayurvedic tradition, it is used to treat asthma, epilepsy, eye and skin diseases, fever, hemorrhoids, and malnutrition.

    Moringa oleifera is chock-full of proteins, essential amino acids, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, lipids, phenolic compounds, and phytosterols, which imbue it with antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, anticarcinogenic, and antimicrobial properties, according to a review published in Plants.

    In addition to being available as a stand-alone supplement, Moringa oleifera is also used to fortify various baked goods, according to the authors.

    “Moringa oleifera is recognised as an excellent source of phytochemicals, with potential applications in functional and medicinal food preparations due to its nutritional and medicinal properties,” the review authors wrote. “Many authors have experimented with incorporating it mainly in biscuits, cakes, brownies, meats, juices and sandwiches. The results are fascinating, as the products increase their nutritional value; however, the concentrations cannot be high, as this affects the organoleptic characteristics of the supplemented products.”

    The authors also noted that because the root and bark possibly contain harmful chemicals, it is best to consume supplements derived only from the leaves.

    Gymnema sylvestre

    This wild herb is native to India, Africa, Australia, and China. It is known by many names, including Meshashringi, Merasingi, Kavali, Kalikardori, Vakundi, Australian Cowplant, Waldschlinge (in German), and Periploca of the woods (in English).

    In Ayurvedic medicine, Gymnema sylvestre has long been used to treat diabetes, and it is listed in the Indian Pharmacopoeia as an anti-diabetic plant.

    According to the aforementioned review in Frontiers in Pharmacology, this herb contains saponins, flavonol, glycosides, gymnemanol, and gurmarin, which confer the herb’s glucose-lowering properties. It also proffers antidiabetic, antioxidative, antimetastatic, anti-inflammatory, lipid-lowering, and various other properties.

    Unfortunately, this herb is being exploited in its native regions, according to the authors.

    “It is disappearing fast due to overexploitation and extensive collection to meet the demand,” they wrote. “Many unauthorized preparations of this plant are found in the local market. People are using this plant as a cheap substitution for their antidiabetic medicine without any knowledge of what part of the plant to be used, which results in unnecessary destruction of the whole plant.”

    The authors added that the plant is being wasted because it is not harvested and prepared properly, but there is a way to keep it flourishing.

    “To prevent the waste of this plant, legal production of medicinal preparation from the plant should be ensured, and sustainable use of this plant should be closely monitored,” they explained. “In addition to these, people should be also made aware of the proper use of the plant so that they can get maximum benefit.”

    Chaga

    Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees in cold climates, and they are used as folk medicine in Russia and northern European countries for the treatment of cancer and various other ailments and diseases. Other names for the mushroom include black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk, and the sterile conk trunk rot.

    The conk, which is used medicinally, consists of wood from the substrate tree and the mycelium of the invasive fungus.

    “Chaga demonstrated antitumor, antimutagenic, antiviral, antiplatelet, antidiabetic, antioxidant, analgesic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects both in vitro and in vivo,” according to authors of a clinical summary on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

    “In addition, chaga extracts and its constituents exerted inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects against colon, lung, and liver cancer cells. Inotodiol from chaga exerted antitumor effects against cervical cancer cells. In some studies, chaga demonstrated selective apoptosis in tumor cells with no effects on healthy cells,” the authors added.

    Unfortunately, natural stocks of this fungus have been nearly depleted. Researchers are currently working on artificially cultivating the mushroom.

    Sceletium tortuosum

    The traditional name for this succulent plant is Kanna (or Channa), and it grows in South Africa. Local tribes ingest the plant to relieve thirst and hunger, as well as fatigue. It can be chewed, consumed as a tea or tincture, or smoked, among other preparations.

    According to the authors of a review published in Pharmaceuticals, “Kanna’s main active compounds are mesembrine, mesembrenol, and mesembrenone, which are synthesized in the plant through the condensation of phenylalanine and tyrosine amino acids. Kanna alkaloids inhibit serotonin reuptake and PDE4A, potentially enhancing sexual potency and libido.”

    The plant also contains serotoninergic, GABAergic, and opioid properties, and it is marketed as a supplement to improve mood. In animal models, this agent has demonstrated antinociceptive properties.

    Muira puama

    Amazonian natives use the roots and bark of this tree to treat depression, sexual dysfunction, and anxiety. The roots are prepared as an alcohol-based infusion, but extracts, solutions, and pills are also available.

    According to the authors of the Pharmaceuticals review, “Based on ethnopharmacological data, it can be hypothesized that muira puama interacts with the dopaminergic system, increasing libido; the noradrenergic system, inducing antidepressant effects; and the serotonergic system, modulating appetite.”

    They cautioned: “A few neurological side effects were reported in preclinical studies, including impairment of both short- and long-term memory and reduced locomotion.”

    To learn more about other supplements made from naturally occurring ingredients, which have research-backed benefits, click here.

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