Studies have shown there are more than 2,000 different dietary and herbal supplements to choose from on the marketplace.
Those same studies show that consumers spend over $5 billion dollars a year on the offerings.
Why? Herbs and supplements offer consumers a generally safe, easy and affordable way to take more control of their health.
Consumers know everything from chronic headaches and arthritis can benefit from taking supplements.
One word of general caution, just because a product is touted as "natural" doesn't mean that it is completely harmless or guaranteed to work.
Although herbs and vitamin supplements are not required to undergo rigorous safety testing that the FDA requires of medications, the FDA does keep a close eye on new products released into the market. The FDA also requires that all vitamins and herbs met other standards to protect the consumer as much as possible.
When herbs or supplements are reported as problematical, the FDA will investigate for investigation of problems. As a rule, of the 2,000 different vitamins and supplement available on the market, only a handful have caused concerns.
One common rule of thumb is to always consult with your doctor before you try a herb or vitamin that may pose a risk if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, have a medical condition or are taking prescription drugs.
While the store clerk was correct about some of his facts, he was definitely misinformed about others. Yohimbe, unless recommended specifically by a certified herbalist or alternative physician, can potentially be dangerous. In some select cases it can actually cause serious health problems. It is not to be experimented with lightly.
Don't get me wrong. I am a big believer in herbs and incorporate their use into my daily life. My only concern is that uninformed people can inadvertently harm innocent consumers with misinformation. My goal with this article is to address a few herbs that need to be researched completely before adding them to any type of treatment program.
What Is Yohimbe?
Yohimbe also known as Yohimbinean, is a herb that is an "indole alkaloid" that is present in the inner bark of a West African evergreen tree known as the "Pausinystalia yohimbe".
This herb has a reputation, in some circles, for being a very powerful, although somewhat questionable, aphrodisiac. Although its powers are highly rumored, no reputable studies have ever confirmed that yohimbe actually has an impact on sexuality in humans.
For over 50 years Yohimbe, which is a hormone stimulant, has been used as a treatment for male and female sexual difficulties, specifically with impotence in men and women.
For cases of impotence that is treated medically, a Yohimbe based drug is given in relatively small doses of less than 10mg. As a prescribed drug Yohimbe is available under the brand names of Aphrodyne, Yocon, and Yohimex.
The raw herb known as Yohimbe is available without a prescription and is being utilized in other ways. The Yohimbe herb has risen in popularity over the past few years and is not in plentiful supply in herb, vitamin and natural food stores. It can also be found on the Net.
Although it is legal in the United States, Yohimbe is showing up as a new party drug due to its ability to provide both hallucinogenic and highly stimulating experiences when taken in dosages of 50-100 mg. Often mixed with other substances like ephedrine, the herb can be quite dangerous when taken in doses over 50mg. Yohimbe is also used in tantric rituals and when taken in excess, is also dangerous and unpleasant.
In the body building community Yohimbe/yohimbine was originally thought to help develop muscle mass. It has been proven that Yohimbe is not an anabolic steroid nor does it exert any effects on endogenous testosterone levels. It will not do anything to increase muscle mass.
On a positive note, when administered under the care of a physician or alternative health practioner, Yohimbe has shown great promise in the treatment of severe fatigue in HIV patients with minimal side effect.
Is It Dangerous?
Other than the Pfizer created Viagra, Yohimbe is the only other substance approved by the FDA for treatment of impotence. It also has the distinction of being the only drug with enough credible evidence to be listed as a sensual stimulant and sexual booster in The Physician's Desk Reference.
Is it dangerous? When taken properly and with the guidance of a health care professional, Yohimbe can offer some documented benefits.
Although the clerk at the herb store meant well, Yohimbe has a dark side. Yes, it does contain chemicals which are designed to block certain neurotransmitters that cause the small arteries in the body to dilate. It's been proven in some cases that Yohimbe will increase blood flow to the sexual organs for both men and women.
Unfortunately the herb can block or compress the veins in the body and completely stop blood flow. Whether fact or fiction, some herbalists will share stories of men and women who have been blessed with physical reactions which quickly became a painful curse that lasted for days with no relief in sight.
Yohimbe side effects can also include severe nausea, intense irritability as well as stomach and colon reactions. In some cases Yohimbe can cause dangerously altered blood pressure.
Think about it, a drug that collapses veins and prevents blood flow can wreck havoc for people with blood pressure or heart issues.
It is also not advised for pregnant or lactating women or people with stomach ulcers. Yohimbe has been reported to cause miscarriage in some pregnant women.
Obviously you should not consider using this product if you are at risk or are being treated for high or low blood pressure, heart, kidney, thyroid or psychiatric diseases, anxiety, depression, seizure disorder or stroke. This herb is also not recommended for people with chronic headaches, heart palpitations, tremors or age related sleep problems.
The point to all this is that you should always consult your health care professional before considering taking this or any other herb. This advice is especially important if you are taking antidepressants, MAO inhibitors or any other prescription drug.
Will this help hair growth? I know of no studies, information, notes or references to the use of this herb for hair related issues. Could it be dangerous to experiment with this herb? Yes, without proper supervision and advice.
Spanish Fly - Dangerous & Illegal
Since we are talking about herbs that can be harmful, it is significant to mention one other herb that I am asked about on a regular basis. This herb is known as Spanish Fly. Although this herb is considered to be a good aphrodisiac it is only recently that I was asked if it could help hair growth.
Not only will it not help hair growth in any way, its claims as an aphrodisiac are suspicious and unproven.
This herb is illegal in the United States and is a poison that is considered so dangerous that it can and has proven fatal. Spanish Fly is a chemical composition that is extracted from the blister beetle which is a type of bug. Even a very tiny dose has proven to cause kidney failure, stroke, heart attack and urinary tract destruction.
Spanish Fly is hard to find in the United States. If someone tells you that it will help restore hair growth because of its potent blood enrichment properties, run, don't walk, away.
Herbs Which Are Generally Safe
All herbs should always be administered by a licensed professional or expert. No matter what herb you are thinking of trying, make sure you do your homework.
There are some herbs that are considered to have aphrodisiac properties that are generally safe.
Saw Palmetto, a plant that grows along the Southeastern seaboards, from South Carolina to Florida, is very well known as a treatment for prostate ailments. It also has a long tradition as an aphrodisiac, as well as an herb that is useful in helping with hair loss.
Saw palmetto can be found in capsule or liquids in many health food stores. Although Saw Palmetto seems to add heat to physical urges, it is known to have virtually no side effects. Like everything else, Saw Palmetto should be taken only after you do your research and make sure there are no potential problems.
Kava, is a shrub that grows in the South Pacific. It has many uses and is considered to be a natural antidepressant. The roots of this plant contain chemicals that relax the spine without affecting the mind. It's widely available in either a tincture or capsule form. It contains no known side effects. When taken according to instructions, is generally considered to be safe. Again, always check with your health care practioner before undertaking a new treatment course.
Damiana, a shrub that is indigenous to the Southwest contains certain plant chemicals that seem to mimic human hormones. It is considered to be both an aphrodisiac and an herb that will help with hair loss issues.
This herb can be easily found in health food, herb and vitamin stores as tinctures, capsules or dried leaves. It is considered safe when taken under supervision.
The moral to this article is to always get advice from a professional before embarking on any wild treatments for thinning hair or other beauty problems.
No matter what someone tells you, it may only be rumors or half truths. While some herbs, like Yohimbe, may be perfectly safe under a doctor's supervision, taken in excess, they can be dangerous and life threatening. Some drugs, like Spanish Fly, are illegal and should not be considered an option.
There are actually some herbs which are considered to be helpful for thinning hair as well as being good for other matters.
Although they are not considered dangerous, it is still wise to get guidance when taking them.
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- Revised Publication Date: 02/13/11
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