Is it safe to
by Gabrielle Carey
(Ann Arbor, MI)
I recently purchased fenugreek, saw palmetto and red clover capsules. I emptied the capsules into hot water an drank them as a kind of tea. I noticed I felt a little different. I was wondering if it is safe to take these together this way? Also, I usually take a multivitamin daily, is it safe to take these herbal supplements with my multivitamin?
One more thing, about a month and a half ago I was in the emergency twice for dehydration and rapid heart rate. Would taking these herbs affect my electrolytes or increase/decrease my risk of becoming electrolyte or potassium deficient?
Gabrielle, the first thing you need to understand about herbal supplements is what they are good for and what to look for. So I looked in my Herbal Products Reference Guide to see what it had to say. Here is what I found:Multivitamin
- While not exactly in the reference guide as a single item many vitamins are listed extensively. Vitamins are used for supplementing the Daily Requirement of essential nutrients not usually acquired by a healthy diet. Essential nutrients (such as amino acids) are those that the body cannot synthesize on its own, but must be consumed in the diet. There are 21 common non-essential amino acids and 9 essential amino acids.
These 9 essential amino acids can be synthesized in the body by the combination other nutrients. Certain combinations of vitamins, minerals and herbs are used to help the body manufacture these essential nutrients and are usually included in the proper amounts in a multivitamin (for the average person).
Multivitamins are also used to supplement the nutrients that can be acquired through normal diet, but not in sufficient concentration needed to meet the Daily Recommended Value (DRV) set by the USDA.
Some studies indicate that concentrations above the DRV have been helpful for keeping the body healthy. For instance Vitamin C in a 1000% of RDA is helpful as an anti-viral and anti-inflammatory agent. Thus, Vitamin C is very helpful in preventing and reducing the occurrence and effects of the common cold.
This does not mean that higher concentrations of all vitamins or herbs will be beneficial. In some cases nutrient overdose can result. So this practice is not recommended, unless research has been done to suggest a clear advantage is present and is known to be safe.
There have been and continue to be numerous studies on nutrition and vitamins and their benefits and effects on the body. Many studies suggest that taking a multivitamin daily can help prevent illness, reduce the occurrence of heart disease, supplement energy and improve bodily functions.
I could create a whole encyclopedia of the information I found on vitamins but that is getting off topic. So, let's get back on track, here is what I found about the above mentioned herbs and what they are good for.Fenugreek
Red Clover (flower)
- Useful for all mucous conditions and lung congestion.
- Helps with ulcers, inflamed stomach and intestinal conditions.
- Also used in treatment of diabetes and gout.
- Aids in eliminating boils and carbuncles.
Red Clover Extract (aerial)
- Wonderful for scrofulous and skin diseases.
- Great antidote for cancer.
- Helps (relieve) bronchitis, leprosy, syphilis, rickets, indolent ulcers.
- Used as a blood purifier.
- Has antispasmodic properties.
- Makes a good sedative to relax muscle cramping and nervous exhaustion.
- Relieves irritation and inflammation of the urinary tract.
- Used for menopausal problems.
- Helps with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Inhibits inflammatory substances that contribute to prostate problems.
I didn't find any information related to potassium or electrolytes in association with the above mentioned herbs. Although, I did see many medicinal warnings. As I mentioned above, combinations of nutrients (vitamins and herbs) are used by the body to synthesize (or deplete) other nutrients in the body.
I recommend caution when combining herbs and vitamins and taking them in large doses. Especially if you are not sure what effects they may have on you.
However, that is not to say you shouldn't supplement your diet with targeted herbal nutrition solutions.
But, you should know ahead of time what they are for and how to use them.
In 1993 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defined dietary (herbal) supplements as NOT
being medicine, drugs or over the counter pharmaceuticals. Therefore herbal (dietary) supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
Which in turn resulted in the explosion of wild claims and a bonanza of so called beneficial herbal remedies. While many of these actually are beneficial, the daily dosages and desired effects can vary between (and within) supplements.
This problem resulted in a lot of people creating their own products and marketing them as disease prevention, illness cures or herbal remedies, but are not backed up by scientific research or provide consistent dosages.Herbalife is pharmaceutical grade.
This means that research has been done to create herbal supplements that consistently provide the same dosage of ingredients and expected results, every time.
Why is this important? For many reasons, but most importantly it allows Herbalife to make accurate daily dosage recommendations, state the desired effects and provide medicinal warnings (if any).
Herbalife is the leader in herbal nutrition science. The Herbalife Science and Nutrition Advisory boards, based on the UCLA campus, are a group of scientists and physicians dedicated to the research, development and advancement of herbal nutrition science. Each product Herbalife creates is based on the combination of science and nature to provide beneficial dietary herbal supplements.
Certainly, one of the main
aspects of this research is the safety of the consumer. That means that Herbalife can provide accurate information on their nutrition labels, as required by law. Also, Herbalife provides recommendations and daily dosages based on scientific fact AND
accurately state the usefulness of the ingredients (what they are good for).
In light of all this, my recommendation is to purchase only those herbal supplements that are pharmaceutical grade, state what they are used for, have daily dosage recommendations, accurate nutrition labels and medicinal warnings (if any). If all this information is not available for the herbal supplement in question, then beware, you may accidentally overdose yourself.
To G.C. - You did not mention why you decided to create your own herbal solution, so I do not know what you were trying to accomplish. As for feeling a little different, that should have been expected. Why? Because the product information (if any) should have mentioned any effects associated with the herbs included and should have come with a recommended dosage. Also, you did not define what 'felt a little different' is, so I'm not sure what that means.
However, I'll take a stab at it and say that Red Clover is a sedative and used to relax muscle cramping and nervous exhaustion. This may be what you were feeling. It may be safer not to ingest a high concentration of Red Clover for any reason. Although, Red Clover is often used in combination with other herbs to target specific herbal nutrition needs,
it usually is used in a very low concentration (50mg). This may be why you felt a little different.
Same thing with Fenugreek. My research shows this herb is usually used in very small quantities in combination with other 'activating' herbs to be beneficial.
To answer Gabrielle's question "is it safe" to take these (herbs and vitamins) together this way? Well, No! If you don't know what to expect and know the proper dosage than more than likely you are experimenting.
Hope this helps
1.) Herbal Products Reference Guide. By: David Lee Miller. 9th edition, 2005.
2.) Herbalife, Physicians Reference Manual, 3rd ecition, 2007. Herbalife International. Copyright David Heber, M.D. Ph.D. Chairman Herbalife Science and Nutrition Advisory Boards.