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What are some guidelines consumers should consider for the safe and effective use of herbs oils and supplements?


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Using herbs and supplements have been around for decades and they have not been regulated until the last 10 - 20 years. Because of its long history, it is difficult to to find comprehensive but concise and up to date guides that cover the use and safety of herbs and supplements. However, here are a few ideas to select supplements and a few references to learn more about these subjects. Ideas to select supplements/herbs: - Read the label. Keeping your intake of vitamins close to the 100% Daily Value mark is the best supplement choice. There are some vitamins that can be taken over this amount -- a few of the B vitamins and vitamin C -- and they will not be harmful to you. There are some others that can be toxic over a certain amount. For example, Vitamin A is not recommended over 10,000 IUs. People can experience symptoms over this amount. Over 20,000 - 25,000 IUs have caused some deaths in children. Our bodies also keep a tight rope on minerals. For example, the best results are obtained when you take the right amount of calcium to support bone and blood health. Too much and the amount that is absorbed goes down. In fact, no more than 500 mg of calcium should be taken at one time. If a label offers a large amount of nutrients over the 100% Daily Value limit, then more knowledge and information is needed to determine if this high amount is beneficial or harmful. For example, some people are sensitive to iron and retain more iron than most people. Iron levels can build up in the body and cause a disorder called hemochromatosis. A person really needs to know what s/he needs before taking these high amounts. - Choose supplements made by the larger companies. Larger companies may regulate the contents of their supplements and some of the smaller mom/pop supplements do not. In other words, larger companies may volunteer to follow the same regulations that drug companies follow. The importance of this is -- you want your supplement to contain what is on the label. Sometimes, companies will supply a long list of ingredients that may not be in the supplement or the amount in the supplement does not match what is on the label. In addition, ingredients should not contain contaminants. Larger companies, check their supplies for purity but small companies may not. Lastly, larger companies may check to make sure the tablet actually breaks down in the body. Ask if they conduct a dissolution test to see if it breaks down in 30 minutes or less in the stomach. There are tablets that will go straight through the body without breaking down -- this would be a waste of money. - Look to see if there is an 800 number or some way to contact the company that makes the supplement. If you have questions, they can answer them. Larger companies usually offer these services and they can assist you in making supplement/herb choices. There may be smaller companies as well but look first to make sure you can communicate with a company representative. - avoid supplements that make "pie-in-the-sky" promises. If the advertisement sounds too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true. Here are a few books and web sites that can give you a starting place: Books by James Duke including The Green Pharmacy Books by Varro Tyler including Tyler's Honest Herbal Web site: http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/index.aspx Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov/ I wish you well on your search for good supplements and herbs.