What legal herb/dietary supplement has improved your life dramatically?
August 4, 2014 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm a complete noob when it comes to herbs and dietary supplements, but I know that there are a nearly infinite number of herbs from all over the world (Chinese herbs, etc) for all sorts of ailments from hair loss to high cholesterol to focus and energy. Any experiences with something specific that worked with dramatic positive results?
posted by dep to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Cinnamon. Helped my blood sugar a while but not worth the cost.

Stopped cinnamon (the fake cheap stuff most commonly sold in the US) supplementation because it messed up my already kinda wonky liver function. I've always had a wonky liver with the blood tests showing okay and kinda worrysome results (I'm tested quarterly to half yearly). On cinnamon it got dramatically worse to the point that they were going to do a number of more invasive tests until I said I'd stop the cinnamon and test again in a shorter timeframe - my numbers went back down.

Currently told to be on so I am on Vitamin D and B12 for tiredness, not sure if it's helping or other meds are that I don't want to be taking that I'll try to phase back out after my November checkup.
posted by tilde at 7:03 AM on August 4, 2014

A daily B-complex and D supplement helped my mood and energy levels pretty dramatically, but that's because I had a D deficiency in the first place. Not sure if the B vitamins actually helped or if it was another environmental change - the proof of efficacy is pretty sparse for doses above a normal recommended intake.

I'm not sure there is anything out there that actually works, herb or vitamin, unless you have a deficiency that can be addressed by them.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:06 AM on August 4, 2014

5,000 UI of Vitamin D daily made a huge difference for me with regard to the stability and general upbeatness of my mood. It also almost completely knocked out my really severe season affective disorder.
posted by griphus at 7:07 AM on August 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

ZMAs have helped my sleep patterns dramatically. Able to fall asleep quicker, sleep deeper, and wake up quicker. (Also none of the weird groggy hangover feeling that Melatonin left me with)
posted by picklesthezombie at 7:15 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Herb Library at The People's Pharmacy is a good source for this. They'll mention whether any studies have been done, they'll mention potentially dangerous interactions with drugs or other herbs, and they'll invite people's anecdotal experiences. For example, they provide a warning about liver damage from cinnamon and offer some work-arounds.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:17 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

As I've written previously, amino acids have kept my clinical depression at bay.
posted by Specklet at 7:28 AM on August 4, 2014

Nthing Vitamin D. My husband was hospitalized with low Vitamin D and then again with low D and low B12.

I've had SAD-like symptoms and lowish Vitamin D (31 on a scale of 30-100) and I take 5,000 a day and a B complex with C. Our doctor knows about all of this and we get tested.

The University of Maryland has a great guide, with studies and warnings. I personally try to stay away from any herbal supplement that even has a hint of liver or kidney damage or potential interactions (like raising blood pressure).

That said, I had great results in taking cranberry pill supplements for UTI's, after a series of antibiotics failed to keep them away. A nurse told me about them. If I felt one coming on, I would take 3-4 pills at night with a lot of water and take some for a few days and eventually I stopped having symptoms and didn't need them anymore.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:36 AM on August 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Vitamin D has been a godsend for me, as I get deficient if I am not careful. Garden of Life multivitamins and fish oil are expensive, but worth every penny; I feel so much better when taking them. Evening Primrose oil makes my skin look and feel better. Magnesium and melatonin help me sleep (though these days I get my magnesium from eating pumpkin seeds every day rather than supplements).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:43 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Acetylcysteine did not very much for the sinus troubles I originally tried it for, but very nearly completely erases my impulse to skin-pick. Not a very generalized problem, but I think it's the one supplement I've ever taken that I recommend to others without reservation.
posted by Sequence at 7:46 AM on August 4, 2014

Seconding the chorus of Vitamin D. It has made a dramatic difference in my overall health and it's the only supplement I take.
posted by lydhre at 7:47 AM on August 4, 2014

Vitamin D helped this Aussie who moved from a Sunny Climate to a grey winter in Indiana stop curling up in bed and sobbing with depression. Magnesium also helped.

My husband and I are currently trying amino acids & B Vitamins, to try and help with his hyperfocusing issues and me for moral support. They are helping him a little, but seem to be helping me have more energy though we've only just started so could be placebo effect.
posted by wwax at 7:58 AM on August 4, 2014

Turmeric supplements for inflammation. For various reasons I don't want to take nsaids every day, and this seems to help.
posted by Lardmitten at 8:06 AM on August 4, 2014

It's all "pretty sure" isn't it?

I'm pretty sure 5,000 IU's of vit D3 a day is what an agoraphobe like myself
has to have.

I'm pretty sure Kava Kava pills reduce some of my anxiety.

I'm pretty sure papaya supplements knocked down a nasty digestive issue I had.

I'm pretty sure fish oil and garlic might mitigate some geriatric issues down the road.

I'm pretty sure that lypo-spheric Vitamin C is a modern-day miracle. A godawful
pricey one, though.
posted by Chitownfats at 8:17 AM on August 4, 2014

Seconding cranberry supplements. The kind that come in capsules, not the kind that come in tablets or caplets. I used to get 6-7 UTIs a year, with the supplements I'm down to 1-2. I take a bunch of them (10-15 a day) whenever I do something that often leads to me getting a UTI (for me it's having sex or traveling).

Also n-thing vitamin D.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:22 AM on August 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fish oil.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:30 AM on August 4, 2014

In addition to agreeing on the vitamin D front, a shout-out is due for examine.com, which does the work of actually reviewing the scientific literature on individual supplements and then breaking down not only how strong the evidence is that the supplement has an effect, but also how large the effect is likely to be. Some stuff we are pretty sure does work, but the effect size can be small so that is something you'll want to take into account before spending money on it.

For example, from their page on vitamin D: there is good evidence that supplementing vitamin D above 700 IU produces a notable reduction in fall frequency in the elderly, but only kinda shaky evidence that it produces a minor reduction in your chance of catching the flu. You can dig down and actually read the studies too, which is a nice feature if you want to practice science-speak. It helps you move beyond the "pretty-sure" stage and into the "well, this is what we actually know, now I'll go experiment on myself" stage.
posted by andorphin at 8:44 AM on August 4, 2014 [15 favorites]

Vitamin D. It helps control the god awful bone pain I get.
posted by kathrynm at 9:38 AM on August 4, 2014

My doctor told me to take riboflavin and magnesium for migraines. (I had been switched to a different preventive, which was only preventing about 80% of migraines instead of 99%. Once I added the supplements, it went back to 99%. Yay!)

I take D as well but have not noticed any actual difference. The other supplements I take are due to real deficiencies and aren't relevant unless you have them too. I do not take any supplements speculatively/without my doctor's recommendation; if one accepts that they may have an effect on you (the whole point of taking them), then one has to realize that they might have negative effects, interact with other medications or supplements, etc. (which they can and do!).

The ONLY exception is zinc lozenges. I read enough research supporting their utility for short-circuiting colds--and I have high stakes regarding colds, both professionally and healthwise--that I decided it was worth it. And they seem to work well for me. (Only the under-the-tongue lozenges, not swallowed pills.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:45 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

A good adjunct to examine.com is consumerlab.com. In addition to having information about research, they test brand-name supplements for potency, contamination, etc. Membership ($36/yr) required for full access, and it's well worth it.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:50 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

B-12 makes a huge difference in my levels of energy. The lozenges didn't do anything to me but now I get the shoots and those really get me moving.
posted by 3dd at 10:00 AM on August 4, 2014

When I take fish oil, the pain in my hip mostly goes away. When I don't, I get stiffer. I have no science to back this up but I've noticed it happening twice when I forgot to take the fish oil for a week or two.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:00 PM on August 4, 2014

Iron (liquid)
Fish oil (DHA and EPA only)
Calcium & magnesium
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:07 PM on August 4, 2014

I swear by the TCM herbal formulas Yin Chiao, Zong Gan Lin, and Gan Mao Lin (I like this brand) for colds. My husband and I once did a comparison test when we both got the same cold but he was too stubborn to take any. I had mild cold symptoms for four or five days; he was miserable for about a week and a half.
posted by Lexica at 6:39 PM on August 4, 2014

When breastfeeding I took a supplement called Lactation Blend that measurably increased my milk supply. It has done the same for friends who pump.
posted by bq at 8:02 PM on August 4, 2014

D-Mannose powder and cranberry pills with D-Mannose in them, for UTI issues.

I did all the diligent things I was supposed to, with regards to UTI prevention, and was still getting them fairly frequently. Mixing some of this stuff in with my usual glass of water post... activities... really, really helped.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:38 AM on August 5, 2014

Such great advice everyone! Thank you!
posted by dep at 6:26 AM on August 5, 2014

Maca. I have Serotonin issues and suffer terrible depression and anxiety but if I take 4-6 capsules of Maca a day I can stay off of Ativan.
posted by goml at 10:51 PM on August 6, 2014

L-Theanine significantly helps reduce my stress and anxiety levels. It's available as a supplement but is also a component of tea (green, especially). It synergizes well with caffeine for focus and works well without caffeine for relaxation.

I take Vitamin D, but often don't do so regularly like I should, so I can't vouch for it. But it is safe, has some decent evidence, is one of the most well-regarded vitamins, and is inexpensive, so it doesn't hurt. Especially since it has been shown that many of us do not get the recommended amount.

Magnesium helps relax/calm me as well, but I have to be careful with that or melatonin (which knocks me out). Magnesium makes me shiver a bit, though, even in amounts of 25% DV.

Melatonin works for knocking me out and putting me to sleep, but after I tried it, I can't use it again. I can vouch for its effectiveness, but it was so effective, that a minute dose (0.75mg) was enough to completely make me pass out in 30 mins time from ingestion. Additionally it made me get cold and shiver A LOT. Enough that for the 30 mins, I couldn't fall asleep, and right at the end of that time-frame it hit me like a brick wall. I couldn't even walk well because I was starting to fall asleep while still standing up. A bit scary, IMO.
posted by kup0 at 12:05 AM on January 17, 2015

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