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The Most Popular Herbs
March 11, 1999 - The marketing and advertising of several popular herbs is driving soaring sales and the use of herbal remedies. The top herbal remedies in the US, according to Nutrition Business Journal, (based in San Diego, Calif.) are echinacea, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, garlic, and St. John’s Wort.
- The leader in sales, echinacea, is said to stimulate the immune system and fight against colds and flu. From 1995 to 1997, sales of echinacea increased from $180 million to $270 million a year. People with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or multiple sclerosis, should avoid taking echinacea.
- Ginseng sales have increased 21 percent to $270 million in 1997. Used for centuries in Asia, ginseng is said to increase energy, and build the body’s resistance to stress. People with cardiovascular disease, as well as those who use stimulants, should not take ginseng.
- Sales of ginkgo biloba have soared 47 percent. In 1997, $240 million of the substance was sold. It is said to be an antioxidant, to increase blood circulation and oxygenation, and improve memory. However, a review of 50 ginkgo biloba studies on Alzheimer’s patients, published in the November 1998 issue of Archives of Neurology, said only four studies yielded reliable information. The other studies did not meet the researchers criteria. The researchers wrote, "Based on a quantitative analysis of the literature, there is a small but significant effect of three- to six-month treatment with 120-240 mg of ginkgo biloba on objective measures of cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease. Further research in the area will need to determine the functional improvements and to determine the best dosage."
- Garlic, which contains the key ingredient allicin, an amino acid derivative, is said to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. Sales of the product skyrocketed 40 percent from 1995 to 1997, netting more than $210 million. Studies continue to debate whether it is effective.
- St. John’s Wort has taken the industry by storm. Sales have surged nearly 2,000 percent from $10 million in 1995 to $200 million in1997. A mild mood elevator, it is said to alleviate mild to moderate depression.
- Another widely used herb is kava kava, said to reduce stress and anxiety. Sales have jumped to an estimated $50 million in 1998. High doses of this herb, coupled with long-term use, can cause muscle, eye, and skin problems. Kava should not be taken by pregnant women, or people diagnosed with depression.