Herbal supplements: What to know before you buy | MayoClinic.com


Echinacea to prevent colds. Ginkgo to improve memory. Flaxseed to lower cholesterol. The list of herbal remedies goes on and on.

Herbal supplements, sometimes called botanicals, aren’t new. Plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. However, herbal supplements haven’t been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and aren’t as strictly regulated as medications.

For example, makers of herbal supplements don’t have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration FDA before putting their products on the market.Yet some herbal supplements ā€” including products labeled as \”natural\” ā€” have drug-like effects that can be dangerous. So its important to do your homework and investigate potential benefits and side effects of herbal supplements before you buy. And be sure to talk with your doctor, especially if you take medications, have chronic health problems, or are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Are herbal supplements safe?

Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA, but not as drugs or as foods. They fall under a category called dietary supplements. The rules for dietary supplements are as follows:

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