little depressed? You could get a prescription for Prozac or try psychotherapy.
But 7.5 million Americans in the past year have instead gulped down an extract
made from a bright yellow flower called St. John's wort--available without a
prescription at the health-food store in the mall or at the local Wal-Mart.
Fear the onset of cold and flu season? You could get a flu shot. Or, like 7.3
million Americans, you could swallow a capsule made from echinacea, a
purple-petaled daisy native to the Midwest. Worried that your memory is fading?
Then write down this name: ginkgo biloba. It's made from the fan-shaped leaf of
a tree found from China to South Carolina, and 10.8 million Americans regularly
remind themselves to take it.
seek to brighten their moods, stave off disease, rev up their sex lives or
retain their youth, more and more Americans are supplementing and replacing
prescription medicines with a profusion of pills and potions that contain
various medicinal herbs, vitamins and minerals. Some are proved safe and
effective; many are not. Consumers spent more than $12 billion on natural
supplements last year--nearly double the amount spent in 1994, and sales
continue to grow at better than 10% a year. Shoppers can stock up not only at
incense-scented tofu-and-sprouts shops but also at corner pharmacies and
supermarkets, and from mail-order houses, websites and Amway distributors who
rattle their pillboxes door to door. Preparations made from herbs--from aloe
for regularity to valerian for restful sleep--are the hottest of all, with some
60 million Americans now swallowing doses regularly. And for those who crave a
tastier fix, there are new so-called functional foods--concoctions such as
fruit juice laced with ginseng, or corn chips with kava, the one claiming to
perk you up and the other to calm you down.
market for all things herbal has attracted growing interest from everyone from
Ann Landers (who recommends herbs as an alternative to Viagra) and Larry King
(whose radio ads credit ginseng for his youthful, uh, glow) to professors of
medicine and Wall Street investors. The Journal of the American Medical
Association (J.A.M.A.) released an issue devoted entirely to studies of herbs
and so-called alternative remedies. Among the eye-opening findings: Americans
today make more visits to nontraditional physicians, including naturopaths who
claim expertise in herbs and other natural therapies, than to their family
doctors. And they spend almost as much out of pocket (not reimbursed by health
insurance) on alternative medicine ($27 billion) as on all unreimbursed
physician services ($29 billion).
The growth of the herbal-supplement
industry continues at approximately 30 % per year (Foster and Tyler, 2000). In
a survey conducted between 1998 and 1999, about 49 % of American adults, some
100 million people, tried remedies from plants. Of these, 25 million
individuals (24%) considered themselves regular medicinal herb consumers
expansion of the market for herbs and other supplements, though, comes at some
risk to consumers. These products are not regulated in the U.S. nearly as
strictly as over-the-counter drugs or even foods--in sharp contrast to
countries like Germany, where the government holds companies to strict
standards for ingredients and manufacturing. Experts say that while the top
U.S. and European manufacturers pay close attention to the safety,
effectiveness and consistency of their products, parts of the industry resemble
a Wild West boomtown, where some 800 lightly regulated U.S. companies compete
ferociously with fly-by-night hucksters. "When you open a bottle of nutritional
supplements, you don't know what's inside," says Jeffrey Delafuente, a pharmacy
professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "There may be some
ingredients not listed. You do not know how much active ingredient is in each
tablet. They can make all kinds of claims that may not be
The market in dietary
supplements is booming. Total sales were about $9 billion in 1997, double that
of five years ago. According to a poll conducted by Multi-Sponsor Surveys, 43%
of American adults took some kind of vitamin or mineral last year, compared
with 33% in 1991. But dietary supplements also include herbal remedies:
Americans spent $600 million on such products last year.
THE TOP SELLING HERBAL PRODUCTS IN
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