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The Unsettling Side Effects of Common Herbal Supplements

The Unsettling Side Effects of Common Herbal Supplements

    There is a booming market for herbal and dietary supplements in the US. We’ll try any pill or herb that claims to make our minds sharper or our stress levels lower. Anything is worth experimenting with once if it can boost our productivity.

    While most over-the-counter herbal supplements are perfectly safe, some of the pills you may be taking could be harmful to your health. If you’ve been consuming any herbal supplements to improve the number of productive hours you have each day, familiarize yourself with some of the potential side effects below.

    DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to treat, prevent, or cure any ailment. Always consult your doctor before starting a herbal supplement regimen to make sure that there are no complications due to your health or any other medications that you may currently be taking.

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    1. Caffeine

    Okay, caffeine doesn’t really count as a dietary supplement…but so many of us consume it daily in such large quantities that it is worth discussing its effects the body.

    As a drug that can boost energy levels, caffeine is one of our oldest pick-me-ups. However, too much caffeine causes stomach problems, jitters, insomnia, and dehydration. Avoid the energy drinks and over-sized espresso drinks, and stick to one small cup of coffee at a time.

    2. Ginkgo

    Ginkgo biloba herbal supplements are taken by people looking to increase their memory or concentration, making them a popular choice with both students and those over 50. There is also some evidence to suggest ginko supplements can aid with preventing further memory loss for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, although additional study is needed.

    However, if you take ginkgo with Ibuprofen or any blood thinners (such as Coumadin or aspirin), this can enhance the anticoagulant properties of these medications. This can cause excessive bleeding or increased chance of bruising.

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    3. St. John’s Wort

    Pale-skinned, depressed ladies beware! There is one herbal supplement you may need to steer clear of. St. John’s Wort is an herb that can decrease feelings of depression and elevate your mood.

    However, if you take it every day, you’ll need to start amping up your SPF, as this herb has been linked to severe sun reactions.

    More troubling, St. John’s Wort can increase the rate at which estrogen is broken down by the body…and for ladies on the birth control pill, that can mean increased risk of unintended pregnancy.

    4. Kava

    Kava is used to calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness, and treat insomnia. However, it can exacerbate depression symptoms, and can also cause liver damage. If you already are suffering from liver disease, or are taking meds that increase the sensitivity of your liver, talk to you doctor before starting a kava regimen.

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    5. Yohimbe

    Yohimbe bark has a variety of uses, including treating sexual dysfunction for men and women, boosting energy for athletes, and aiding in weight loss. However, yohimbe seems to cause more problems than it is probably worth.

    Minor side effects of taking yohimbe bark include upset stomach, vomiting, irregular sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, headaches, irritability, skin rashes, and rapid heartbeat.

    If you overindulge in this supplement, you may also face diminished respiratory function, high fever, kidney problems, and lupus-like symptoms.

    6. Echinacea

    Echinacea is a common choice for people looking to get over a common cold. It’s worth noting that echinacea shouldn’t be used for preventing a cold, but rather just for shortening the duration of cold symptoms.

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    However, people who are allergic to ragweed or daisy pollen can have a similar allergic reaction to echinacea. This herbal supplement can also cause caffeine to break down more slowly, prolonging the caffeine jitters.

    People suffering from disease like lupus, MS, or rheumatoid arthritis should also avoid echinacea, since it can interfere adversely with immune system processes in certain cases.

    Conclusion

    If you want to learn more about the side effects of common herbal supplements like the ones listed above, the National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus site is an invaluable resource.

    While herbal supplements are usually safe for most people, many supplements are not endorsed by the FDA, and women who are pregnant or nursing need to be especially careful before starting a supplement regime. Herbal supplements can be a great way to increase your productivity, but only if you can handle the side effects.

    When purchasing herbal supplements, make sure to buy them from reputable dealers. According to one doctor interviewed by PBS, some herbal supplements contain filler like grass or chamomile, and up to 30% of some herbal supplement pills on the market do not contain the main ingredient advertised on the label.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2019

    12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

    12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

    Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

    But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

    I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

    Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

    1. Nuts

    The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

    Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

    Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

    Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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    2. Blueberries

    Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

    When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

    3. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

    4. Broccoli

    While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

    Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

    Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

    5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

    Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

    The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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    Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

    6. Soy

    Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

    Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

    Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

    7. Dark Chocolate

    When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

    Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

    8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

    Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

    B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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    Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

    Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

    To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

    9. Foods Rich in Zinc

    Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

    Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

    Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

    10. Gingko Biloba

    This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

    It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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    However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

    11. Green and Black Tea

    Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

    Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

    Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

    12. Sage and Rosemary

    Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

    Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

    When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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