An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure!

Yerba Mate Tea

 

Mate is a plant. The leaves are used to make medicine.

Mate is used as a stimulant to relieve mental and physical tiredness (fatigue), as well as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is also used for heart-related complaints including heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

Some people use mate to improve mood and depression; to relieve headache and joint pains; to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bladder and kidney stones; for weight loss; and as a laxative.

In foods, mate is used to make a tea-like beverage, known as maté or Yerba Maté, which is very popular in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for YERBA MATE are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Mental function. Early research suggests that drinking a beverage containing yerbe mate does not affect mental performance in healthy females.
  • Diabetes. Early research suggests that drinking yerba mate tea three times daily for 60 days can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • High lipid (fat) levels in the blood. Early research suggests that drinking tea containing yerba mate three times daily for 40 days can lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol in people with high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood. Also, drinking yerba mate tea appeasr to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol in people with high cholesterol who are also taking statin drugs.
  • Obesity. Early research shows that taking yerba mate by mouth might cause weight loss when used in combination with guarana and damiana.
  • Osteoporosis. Drinking a traditional yerba mate tea daily might reduce the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women.
  • Prediabetes. Early research suggests that drinking yerba mate tea three times daily for 60 days does not reduce blood sugar before eating in people with prediabetes. However, it might reduce glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C), a measure of average blood sugar.
  • Constipation.
  • Depression.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Heart conditions.
  • Kidney and bladder stones.
  • Mental and physical tiredness (fatigue).
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Fluid retention.
  • Headaches.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of yerba mate for these uses.

How does it work?

Mate contains caffeine and other chemicals which stimulate the brain, heart, muscles lining blood vessels, and other parts of the body.

Are there safety concerns?

Yerba mate is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people, when taken by mouth for short periods of time. It contains caffeine, which can cause some side effects such as inability to sleep (insomnia), nervousness and restlessness, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate and breathing, high blood pressure, headache, ringing in the ears, irregular heartbeats, and other side effects.

When taken in large amounts or for long periods of time, yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It increases the risk of mouth, esophageal, laryngeal, kidney, bladder, and lung cancer. This risk is especially high for people who smoke or drink alcohol.

When taken in very large amounts, yerba mate is LIKELY UNSAFE, due to its caffeine content.

Special precautions & warnings:

Children: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth. Yerba mate is linked with an increased risk of mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, laryngeal cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and lung cancer.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. One concern is that using yerba mate seems to increase the risk of getting cancer. It’s not known whether that risk is transferred to the developing fetus. Another concern is the caffeine content of yerba mate. Caffeine crosses the placenta and enters the fetus’ bloodstream, producing caffeine levels in the fetus that resemble the caffeine level in the mother. In general, mothers should avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine daily; that’s about 2 cups of coffee or tea. Infants born to mothers who consume a lot of caffeine during pregnancy sometimes show symptoms of caffeine withdrawal after birth. High doses of caffeine have also been linked with miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight. However, researchers studied mothers who drank yerba mate tea during pregnancy and found no strong link between drinking yerba mate and premature delivery or small birth weight. But this study has been criticized because it did not consider the amount of yerba mate or caffeine used by the mothers; it looked only at how often they used yerba mate.

Yerba mate is also POSSIBLY UNSAFE during breast-feeding. It is not known whether the cancer-causing chemicals in yerba mate pass into breast milk, but that is a concern. The caffeine in yerba mate is also a problem. It might cause irritability and increased bowel movements in nursing infants.

Alcoholism: Heavy alcohol use combined with long-term yerba mate use increases the risk of cancer from 3-fold to 7-fold.

Anxiety disorders: The caffeine in yerba mate might make anxiety disorders worse.

Bleeding disorders: Caffeine might slow clotting. As a result, there is a concern that the caffeine in yerba mate might make bleeding disorders worse. But so far, this effect has not been reported in people.

Heart conditions: Caffeine in yerba mate can cause irregular heartbeats in certain people. If you have a heart condition, discuss using yerba mate with your healthcare provider.

Diabetes: Some research suggests that the caffeine in yerba mate may affect the way people with diabetes process sugar and may complicate blood sugar control. There is also some interesting research that suggests caffeine may make the warning symptoms of low blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes more noticeable. Some studies show that the symptoms of low blood sugar are more intense when they start in the absence of caffeine, but as low blood sugar continues, symptoms are greater with caffeine. This might increase the ability of people with diabetes to detect and treat low blood sugar. However, the downside is that caffeine might actually increase the number of low-sugar episodes. If you have diabetes, talk with your healthcare provider before using yerba mate.

Diarrhea. Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate, especially when taken in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea and might worsen symptoms of IBS.

Glaucoma: Using yerba mate increases the pressure inside the eye due to the caffeine it contains. The increase in pressure occurs within 30 minutes and lasts for at least 90 minutes. If you have glaucoma, discuss your use of yerba mate with your healthcare provider.

High blood pressure: The caffeine in yerba mate might increase blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Consuming 250 mg of caffeine can increase blood pressure in healthy people, but this doesn’t seem to happen in people who use caffeine all the time.

Weak bones (osteoporosis): Some researchers have found that postmenopausal women who drink a liter or more daily of a traditional South American yerba mate tea have higher bone density. However, the caffeine in yerba mate tends to flush calcium out of the body in the urine. This can contribute to weak bones. For this reason, many experts recommend that caffeine intake be limited to less than 300 mg per day (approximately 2-3 cups of yerba mate). Taking extra calcium may help to make up for the calcium that is flushed out.

There are some women who are at special risk for weak bones. These women have an inherited condition that makes it hard for them to use vitamin D properly. Vitamin D works with calcium to build strong bones. These women should be especially careful to limit the amount of caffeine they get from yerba mate as well as other sources.

Smoking: The risk of getting cancer is 3 to 7 times higher in people who smoke and use yerba mate for long periods of time.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Amphetamines
Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in yerba mate might also speed up the nervous system. Taking yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.
Cocaine
Stimulant drugs such as cocaine speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in yerba mate might also speed up the nervous system. Taking yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.
Ephedrine
Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. Caffeine (contained in yerba mate) and ephedrine are both stimulant drugs. Taking caffeine along with ephedrine might cause too much stimulation and sometimes serious side effects and heart problems. Do not take caffeine-containing products and ephedrine at the same time.
Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Adenosine (Adenocard)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate might block the effects of adenosine (Adenocard). Adenosine (Adenocard) is often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming yerba mate or other caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test.
Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics)
The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Some antibiotics might decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking these antibiotics along with yerba mate can increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heart rate, and other side effects.

Some antibiotics that decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar).

Cimetidine (Tagamet)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Cimetidine (Tagamet) can decrease how quickly your body breaks down caffeine. Taking cimetidine (Tagamet) along with yerba mate might increase the chance of caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and others.
Clozapine (Clozaril)
The body breaks down clozapine (Clozaril) to get rid of it. The caffeine in yerba mate seems to decrease how quickly the body breaks down clozapine (Clozaril). Taking yerba mate along with clozapine (Clozaril) can increase the effects and side effects of clozapine (Clozaril).
Dipyridamole (Persantine)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate might block the effects of dipyridamole (Persantine). Dipyridamole (Persantine) is often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming yerba mate or other caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test.
Disulfiram (Antabuse)
The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Disulfiram (Antabuse) can decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Taking yerba mate (which contains caffeine) along with disulfiram (Antabuse) might increase the effects and side effects of caffeine including jitteriness, hyperactivity, irritability, and others.
Estrogens
The body breaks down caffeine (contained in yerba mate) to get rid of it. Estrogens can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Decreasing the breakdown of caffeine can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects. If you take estrogens, limit your caffeine intake.

Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.

Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking yerba mate along with fluvoxamine (Luvox) might cause too much caffeine in the body, and increase the effects and side effects of yerba mate.
Lithium
Your body naturally gets rid of lithium. The caffeine in yerba mate can increase how quickly your body gets rid of lithium. If you take products that contain caffeine and you take lithium, stop taking caffeine products slowly. Stopping yerba mate too quickly can increase the side effects of lithium.
Medications for asthma (Beta-adrenergic agonists)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the heart. Some medications for asthma can also stimulate the heart. Taking caffeine with some medications for asthma might cause too much stimulation and cause heart problems.

Some medications for asthma include albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin, Volmax), metaproterenol (Alupent), terbutaline (Bricanyl, Brethine), and isoproterenol (Isuprel).

Medications for depression (MAOIs)
The caffeine in yerba mate can stimulate the body. Some medications used for depression can also stimulate the body. Drinking yerba mate and taking some medications for depression might cause too much stimulation to the body and serious side effects including fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, nervousness, and others could occur.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.

Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine might slow blood clotting. Taking yerba mate along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Nicotine
Stimulant drugs such as nicotine speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and increase your heart rate. The caffeine in yerba mate might also speed up the nervous system. Taking yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.
Pentobarbital (Nembutal)
The stimulant effects of the caffeine in yerba mate can block the sleep-producing effects of pentobarbital.
Phenylpropanolamine
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the body. Phenylpropanolamine can also stimulate the body. Taking yerba mate and phenylpropanolamine together might cause too much stimulation and increase heartbeat and blood pressure and cause nervousness.
Riluzole (Rilutek)
The body breaks down riluzole (Rilutek) to get rid of it. Taking yerba mate can decrease how fast the body breaks down riluzole (Rilutek) and increase the effects and side effects of riluzole.
Stimulant drugs
Stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. By speeding up the nervous system, stimulant medications can make you feel jittery and speed up your heartbeat. The caffeine in yerba mate can also speed up the nervous system. Consuming yerba mate along with stimulant drugs might cause serious problems including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Avoid taking stimulant drugs along with yerba mate.

Some stimulant drugs include diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and many others.

Theophylline
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Caffeine works similarly to theophylline. Caffeine can also decrease how quickly the body gets rid of theophylline. Taking yerba mate along with theophylline might increase the effects and side effects of theophylline.
Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan)
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) can decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. Drinking yerba mate and taking verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) can increase the risk of side effects for caffeine including jitteriness, headache, and an increased heartbeat.
Minor
Be watchful with this combination.
Alcohol
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Alcohol can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking yerba mate along with alcohol might cause too much caffeine in the bloodstream and caffeine side effects including jitteriness, headache, and fast heartbeat.
Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs)
The body breaks down the caffeine in yerba mate to get rid of it. Birth control pills can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking yerba mate along with birth control pills can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects.

Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.

Fluconazole (Diflucan)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Fluconazole (Diflucan) might decrease how quickly the body gets rid of caffeine. This could cause caffeine to stay in the body too long and increase the risk of side effects such as nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar. Yerba mate contains caffeine. Reports claim that caffeine might increase or decrease blood sugar. Yerba mate might interfere with blood sugar control and decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Mexiletine (Mexitil)
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Mexiletine (Mexitil) can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking Mexiletine (Mexitil) along with yerba mate might increase the caffeine effects and side effects of yerba mate.
Terbinafine (Lamisil)
The body breaks down caffeine (contained in yerba mate) to get rid of it. Terbinafine (Lamisil) can decrease how fast the body gets rid of caffeine and increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heartbeat, and other effects.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Bitter orange
Do not use yerba mate with bitter orange. The combination might overstimulate the body, resulting in increased blood pressure and heart rate, even in people with normal blood pressure.
Calcium
The caffeine in yerba mate tends to increase the body’s elimination of calcium. If you use a lot of yerba mate, ask your healthcare provider if you should take additional calcium to help make up for the calcium that is lost in the urine.
Creatine
There is some concern that combining caffeine, a chemical found in yerba mate, with ephedra and creatine might increase the risk of serious harmful health effects. One athlete who took 6 grams of creatine monohydrate, 400-600 mg of caffeine, 40-60 mg of ephedra, and a variety of other supplements daily for 6 weeks had a stroke. Caffeine might also decrease creatine’s ability to improve athletic performance.
Ephedra (Ma huang)
Don’t use yerba mate with ephedra. This combination can overstimulate the body and increase the risk of serious life-threatening or disabling conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and seizures. This combination can also cause death.
Herbs and supplements that contain caffeine
Yerba mate contains caffeine. Using it along with other herbs or supplements that also contain caffeine might increase the risk of caffeine-related side effects. Other natural products that contain caffeine include cocoa, coffee, cola nut, black tea, oolong tea, and guarana.
Herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting
Yerba mate might slow blood clotting. Using it along with other herbs or supplements that have this same effect might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in some people. Some of these herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.
Magnesium
Yerba mate contains caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate might increase how much magnesium is released in the urine.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of mate depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for mate. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Chimarrao, Green Mate, Hervea, Ilex, Ilex paraguariensis, Jesuit’s Brazil Tea, Jesuit’s Tea, Maté, Maté Folium, Paraguay Tea, St. Bartholemew’s Tea, Thé de Saint Barthélémy, Thé des Jésuites, Thé du Brésil, Thé du Paraguay, Yerbamate, Yerba Mate, Yerba Maté.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Meyer, K. and Ball, P. Psychological and Cardiovascular Effects of Guarana and Yerba Mate: A Comparison with Coffee. Revista Interamericana de Psicologia 2004;38:87-94.
  2. Muccillo Baisch, A. L., Johnston, K. B., and Paganini Stein, F. L. Endothelium-dependent vasorelaxing activity of aqueous extracts of Ilex paraguariensis on mesenteric arterial bed of rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998;60:133-139. View abstract.
  3. Vera, Garcia R., Basualdo, I., Peralta, I., de, Herebia M., and Caballero, S. Minerals content of Paraguayan yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis, S.H.). Arch.Latinoam.Nutr. 1997;47:77-80. View abstract.
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How does 5 HTP WORK?

 

What is it?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced commercially from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffonia simplicifolia 5-HTP is used for sleep disorders such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, migraine and tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizure disorder, and Parkinson’s disease..

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for 5-HTP are as follows:

Possibly effective for…

  • Depression. Some clinical research shows that taking 5-HTP by mouth improve symptoms of depression in some people. Some clinical research shows that taking 5-HTP by mouth might be as beneficial as certain prescription antidepressant drugs for improving depression symptoms. In most studies, 150-800 mg daily of 5-HTP was taken. In some cases, higher doses have been used.

Possibly ineffective for…

  • Down syndrome. Some research shows that giving 5-HTP to infants with Down syndrome might improve muscle and activity. Other research shows that it does not improve muscle or development when taken from infancy until 3-4 years of age. Research also shows that taking 5-HTP along with conventional prescription drugs does improve development, social skills, or language skills.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Alcoholism. Early research shows that taking 5-HTP with D-phenylalanine and L-glutamine for 40 days can reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, taking 5-HTP with carbidopa daily for one year does not seem to help people stop drinking. The effect of 5-HTP alone for alcoholism is not clear.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Early research suggests that taking 5-HTP by mouth does not help symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Anxiety. Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for anxiety is unclear. Early research shows that taking 25-150 mg of 5-HTP by mouth daily along with carbidopa seems to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. However, other early research shows that taking higher doses of 5-HTP, 225 mg daily or more, seems to make anxiety worse. Also, taking 60 mg of 5-HTP daily through the vein does not reduce anxiety in people with panic disorders.
  • Nervous system disorder (Cerebellar ataxia). Evidence on the use of 5-HTP for cerebellar ataxia is unclear. Early evidence shows that taking 5 mg/kg of 5-HTP daily for 4 months can decrease nervous system dysfunction. However, other research shows that taking 5-HTP daily for up to one year does not improve symptoms of cerebellar ataxia.
  • Fibromyalgia. Early research suggests that taking 100 mg of 5-HTP by mouth three times daily for 30-90 days might improve pain, tenderness, sleep, anxiety, fatigue, and morning stiffness in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Early research suggests that taking 150 mg of 5-HTP daily for 4 weeks does not reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women.
  • Migraine headache. Evidence on the effects of 5-HTP for the prevention or treatment of migraines in adults is unclear. Some studies show that taking 5-HTP daily does not reduce migraines, while other studies show that it might be as beneficial as prescription drugs. 5-HTP does not seem to reduce migraines in children.
  • Obesity. Early research suggests that taking 5-HTP might help reduce appetite, caloric intake, and weight in obese people. Other research suggests that using a specific mouth spray containing 5-HTP and other extracts (5-HTP-Nat Exts, Medestea Biotech S.p.a., Torino, Italy) for 4 weeks increases weight loss by about 41% in overweight postmenopausal women.
  • Parkinson’s disease. Early research shows that taking 100-150 mg of 5-HTP by mouth daily with conventional drugs seems to reduce shaking, but these benefits only continue for up to 5 months. Taking larger doses of 5-HTP, 275-1500 mg daily along with carbidopa seems to worsen symptoms.
  • Schizophrenia. Early research suggests that taking 800 mg to 6 grams of 5-HTP daily with carbidopa for 90 days might improve schizophrenia symptoms in some young men.
  • Tension headache. Early research suggests that taking 100 mg of 5-HTP three times daily for 8 weeks does not reduce pain or the length of tension headaches.
  • Heroin withdrawal symptoms. Early research suggests that taking 200 mg of 5-HTP daily for 6 days together with tyrosine, phosphatidylcholine, and L-glutamine, might reduce insomnia and withdrawal symptoms in recovering heroin addicts.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Insomnia.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Ramsey-Hunt syndrome.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of 5-HTP for these uses.

 

How does it work?

5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.

Are there safety concerns?

5-HTP is POSSIBLY SAFE when taking by mouth appropriately. 5-HTP has been used safely in doses up to 400 mg daily for up to one year. However, some people who have taken it have developed a condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). Some people think EMS might be caused by an accidental ingredient or contaminant in some 5-HTP products. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to know if EMS is caused by 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor. Until more is known, 5-HTP should be used cautiously.

Other potential side effects of 5-HTP include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual problems, and muscle problems.

5-HTP is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large doses. Doses from 6-10 grams daily have been linked to severe stomach problems and muscle spasms.

Special precautions & warnings:

Children: 5-HTP is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Doses of up to 5 mg/kg daily have been used safely for up to 3 years in infants and children up to 12 years-old. As with adults, there is also concern about the potential for eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in children, a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia).

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking 5-HTP if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Surgery: 5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Some drugs administered during surgery can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP before surgery might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Tell patients to stop taking 5-HTP at least 2 weeks before surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Medications for depression (Antidepressant drugs)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with these medications for depression might increase serotonin too much and cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking medications for depression.

Some of these medications for depression include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), and others.

Medications for depression (MAOIs)
5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain. This chemical is called serotonin. Some medications used for depression also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP with these medications used for depression might cause there to be too much serotonin. This could cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.

Some of these medications used for depression include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and others.

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Carbidopa (Lodosyn)
5-HTP can affect the brain. Carbidopa (Lodosyn) can also affect the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with carbidopa can increase the risk of serious side effects including rapid speech, anxiety, aggressiveness, and others.
Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others)
5-HTP can affect a brain chemical called serotonin. Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) can also affect serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, others) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and can result in serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others).
Meperidine (Demerol)
5-HTP increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Meperidine (Demerol) can also increase serotonin in the brain. Taking 5-HTP along with meperidine (Demerol) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety.
Pentazocine (Talwin)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Pentazocine (Talwin) also increases serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with pentazocine (Talwin) might increase serotonin too much. This might cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking pentazocine (Talwin).
Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
5-HTP might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking 5-HTP along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.

Tramadol (Ultram)
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Tramadol (Ultram) can also increase serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with tramadol (Ultram) might cause too much serotonin in the brain and might result in side effects including confusion, shivering, stiff muscles, and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements with sedative properties
5-HTP can cause sleepiness or drowsiness. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause too much sleepiness. Some of these herbs and supplements include calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St. John’s wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
Herbs and supplements with serotonergic properties
5-HTP increases a brain chemical called serotonin. Taking 5-HTP along with other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin might lead to too much serotonin and cause side effects including heart problems, shivering and anxiety. Other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin levels include Hawaiian baby woodrose, L-tryptophan, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and St. John’s wort.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:ADULT

BY MOUTH:

  • For depression: Most commonly, 150-800 mg daily is taken for 2-6 weeks. These doses are sometimes divided up and administered as 50 mg to 100 mg three times a day. Sometimes the dose starts out low and steadily increases every 1-2 weeks until a target dose is reached. Less commonly, higher doses are used. In one study, the dose is steadily increased up to 3 grams per day.

Other names

2-Amino-3-(5-Hydroxy-1H-Indol-3-yl)Propanoic Acid, 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophan, 5 Hydroxy-Tryptophane, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophane, 5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan, 5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophane, 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan, 5-L-Hydroxytryptophan, L-5 HTP, L-5-Hydroxytryptophan, L-5-Hydroxytryptophane, Oxitriptan.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Michelson D, Page SW, Casey R, et al. An eosinophilia-myaligia syndrome related disorder associated with exposure to l-5-hydroxytryptophan. J Rheumatol 1994;21:2261-5. View abstract.
  2. Lemaire PA, Adosraku RK. An HPLC method for the direct assay of the serotonin precursor, 5-hydroxytrophan, in seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia. Phytochem Anal 2002;13:333-7.View abstract.
  3. Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Faliva M, Bucci M, Perna S. Relationship between the absorption of 5-hydroxytryptophan from an integrated diet, by means of Griffonia simplicifolia extract, and the effect on satiety in overweight females after oral spray administration. Eat Weight Disord 2012;17:e22-8. View abstract

ZINC BENEFITS

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What is zinc and what does it do?

Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Zinc also helps wounds heal and is important for proper senses of taste and smell.

How much zinc do I need?

The amount of zinc you need each day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts for different ages are listed below in milligrams (mg):

Life Stage                                                                                      Recommended Amount

Birth to 6 months                                                                                         2 mg

Infants 7–12 months                                                                                    3 mg

Children 1–3 years                                                                                        3 mg

Children 4–8 years                                                                                         5 mg

Children 9–13 years                                                                                       8 mg

Teens 14–18 years (boys)                                                                               11 mg

Teens 14–18 years (girls)                                                                                9 mg

Adults (men)                                                                                                     11 mg

Adults (women)                                                                                                8 mg

Pregnant teens                                                                                                  12 mg

Pregnant women                                                                                               11 mg

Breastfeeding teens                                                                                           13 mg

Breastfeeding women                                                                                       12 mg

What foods provide zinc?

Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. You can get recommended amounts of zinc by eating a variety of foods including the following:

  • Oysters, which are the best source of zinc.
  • Red meat, poultry, seafood such as crab and lobsters, and fortified breakfast cereals, which are also good sources of zinc.
  • Beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products, which provide some zinc.

What kinds of zinc dietary supplements are available?

Zinc is present in almost all multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements. It is also available alone or combined with calciummagnesium or other ingredients in dietary supplements. Dietary supplements can have several different forms of zinc including zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate and zinc acetate. It is not clear whether one form is better than the others.

Zinc is also found in some oral over-the-counter products, including those labeled as homeopathic medications for colds. Use of nasal sprays and gels that contain zinc has been associated with the loss of the sense of smell, in some cases long-lasting or permanent. Currently, these safety concerns have not been found to be associated with oral products containing zinc, such as cold lozenges.

Zinc is also present in some denture adhesive creams. Using large amounts of these products, well beyond recommended levels, could lead to excessive zinc intake and copper deficiency. This can cause neurological problems, including numbness and weakness in the arms and legs.

Am I getting enough zinc?

Most people in the United States get enough zinc from the foods they eat.

However, certain groups of people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough zinc:

  • People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, or who have digestive disorders, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. These conditions can both decrease the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increase the amount lost in the urine.
  • Vegetarians because they do not eat meat, which is a good source of zinc. Also, the beans and grains they typically eat have compounds that keep zinc from being fully absorbed by the body. For this reason, vegetarians might need to eat as much as 50% more zinc than the recommended amounts.
  • Older infants who are breastfed because breast milk does not have enough zinc for infants over 6 months of age. Older infants who do not take formula should be given foods that have zinc such as pureed meats. Formula-fed infants get enough zinc from infant formula.
  • Alcoholics because alcoholic beverages decrease the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increase the amount lost in the urine. Also, many alcoholics eat a limited amount and variety of food, so they may not get enough zinc.
  • People with sickle cell disease because they might need more zinc.

What happens if I don’t get enough zinc?

Zinc deficiency is rare in North America. It causes slow growth in infants and children, delayed sexual development in adolescents and impotence in men. Zinc deficiency also causes hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin sores and loss of appetite. Weight loss, problems with wound healing, decreased ability to taste food, and lower alertness levels can also occur.

Many of these symptoms can be signs of problems other than zinc deficiency. If you have these symptoms, your doctor can help determine whether you might have a zinc deficiency.

What are some effects of zinc on health?

Scientists are studying zinc to learn about its effects on the immune system (the body’s defense system against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders). Scientists are also researching possible connections between zinc and the health problems discussed below.

Immune system and wound healing

The body’s immune system needs zinc to do its job. Older people and children in developing countries who have low levels of zinc might have a higher risk of getting pneumonia and other infections. Zinc also helps the skin stay healthy. Some people who have skin ulcers might benefit from zinc dietary supplements, but only if they have low levels of zinc.

Diarrhea

Children in developing countries often die from diarrhea. Studies show that zinc dietary supplements help reduce the symptoms and duration of diarrhea in these children, many of whom are zinc deficient or otherwise malnourished. The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that children with diarrhea take zinc for 10–14 days (20 mg/day, or 10 mg/day for infants under 6 months). It is not clear whether zinc dietary supplements can help treat diarrhea in children who get enough zinc, such as most children in the United States.

The common cold

Some studies suggest that zinc lozenges or syrup (but not zinc dietary supplements in pill form) help speed recovery from the common cold and reduce its symptoms if taken within 24 hours of coming down with a cold. However, more study is needed to determine the best dose and form of zinc, as well as how long it should be taken before zinc can be recommended as a treatment for the common cold.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is an eye disease that gradually causes vision loss. Research suggests that zinc might help slow AMD progression. In a large study among older people with AMD who were at high risk of developing advanced AMD, those who took a daily dietary supplement with 80 mg zinc, 500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene, and 2 mg copper for about 6 years had a lower chance of developing advanced AMD and less vision loss than those who did not take the dietary supplement. In the same study, people at high risk of the disease who took dietary supplements containing only zinc also had a lower risk of getting advanced AMD than those who did not take zinc dietary supplements. People who have or are developing the disease might want to talk with their doctor about taking dietary supplements.

Can zinc be harmful?

Yes, if you get too much. Signs of too much zinc include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. When people take too much zinc for a long time, they sometimes have problems such as low copper levels, lower immunity, and low levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).

The upper limits for zinc are listed below. These levels do not apply to people who are taking zinc for medical reasons under the care of a doctor:

Life Stage Upper Limit
Birth to 6 months 4 mg
Infants 7–12 months 5 mg
Children 1–3 years 7 mg
Children 4–8 years 12 mg
Children 9–13 years 23 mg
Teens 14–18 years 34 mg
Adults 40 mg

Are there any interactions with zinc that I should know about?

Yes. Zinc dietary supplements can interact or interfere with medicines that you take and, in some cases, medicines can lower zinc levels in the body. Here are several examples:

  • Taking a zinc dietary supplement along with quinolone or tetracycline antibiotics (such as Cipro®, Achromycin®, and Sumycin®) reduces the amount of both zinc and the antibiotic that the body absorbs. Taking the antibiotic at least 2 hours before or 4–6 hours after taking a zinc dietary supplement helps minimize this effect.
  • Zinc dietary supplements can reduce the amount of penicillamine (a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis) that the body absorbs. They also make penicillamine work less well. Taking zinc dietary supplements at least 2 hours before or after taking penicillamine helps minimize this effect.
  • Thiazide diuretics, such as chlorthalidone (brand name Hygroton®) and hydrochlorothiazide (brand names Esidrix® and HydroDIURIL®) increase the amount of zinc lost in the urine. Taking thiazide diuretics for a long time could decrease the amount of zinc in the body.

Tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.

Zinc and healthful eating

People should get most of their nutrients from food, advises the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Foods contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and other substances that benefit health. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may provide nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less-than-recommended amounts. For more information about building a healthy diet, refer to the Dietary Guidelines for Americansexternal link disclaimer and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlateexternal link disclaimer.

Where can I find out more about zinc?

Disclaimer

This fact sheet by the Office of Dietary Supplements provides information that should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your healthcare providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health. Any mention in this publication of a specific brand name is not an endorsement of the product.

Updated: February 17, 2016

The Herb Hawthorn

Background

  • Hawthorn is a flowering shrub or tree of the rose family. It is native to Europe and grows in temperate regions throughout the world.
  • Historically, hawthorn has been used for heart disease as well as for digestive and kidney problems. It has also been used for anxiety.
  • Extracts from the hawthorn leaf, flower, or berry may be sold as capsules, tablets, or liquids.

How Much Do We Know?

  • Hawthorn has been studied for heart failure in people. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump as much blood as it should.
  • Not much is known about hawthorn for any other health conditions as there is little or no evidence.

What Have We Learned?

  • Although some older, short-term studies suggested that hawthorn may have benefits in patients with heart failure, two longer term studies completed in 2008 and 2009—including a 2-year trial involving almost 2,700 people in 13 European countries—did not confirm these benefits. In these studies, unlike some of the older ones, patients were given hawthorn in addition to the recommended conventional treatments for heart failure.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • In most studies of hawthorn for heart failure, no serious safety problems have been reported. However, in one study, patients taking hawthorn were more likely than those taking a placebo (an inactive substance) to have their heart failure get worse soon after the study started. The reason for this is not clear, but one possibility is that hawthorn might have interacted with drugs the patients were taking.
  • Side effects of hawthorn can include dizziness, nausea, and digestive symptoms.
  • Hawthorn may interact in harmful ways with drugs, including some heart medications. If you’re taking medication and you’re considering using hawthorn, consult your health care provider.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Key References

  • Guo R, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008;(1):CD005312 [edited 2009]. Accessed at http://www.thecochranelibrary.com(link is external) on April 17, 2015.
  • Hawthorn. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:182-192.
  • Hawthorn. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com on April 17, 2015. [Database subscription].

Cod Liver Oil

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What is it?

Cod liver oil can be obtained from eating fresh cod liver or by taking supplements.

Cod liver oil is used for high cholesterol, high triglycerides, kidney disease in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, depression, an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), glaucoma, and middle ear infections (otitis media).

Some people put cod liver oil on their skin to speed wound healing.

When taken in appropriate doses by mouth, cod liver oil seems to help lower high triglycerides (a type of blood fat), lower high blood pressure, and treat some symptoms of kidney disease related to diabetes. It doesn’t seem to lower high cholesterol or reduce arthritis pain. Other uses are still under investigation.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for COD LIVER OIL are as follows:

Likely effective for…

  • Lowering blood fats called triglycerides. Taking cod liver oil by mouth can reduce triglyceride levels by 20% to 50% in people with high triglyceride levels.

Possibly effective for…

  • High blood pressure. Taking cod liver oil by mouth seems to lower blood pressure (both numbers) a small, but important, amount in people with mild high blood pressure.
  • Kidney disease in people with type 2 diabetes. Taking cod liver oil seems to reduce protein in the urine, a marker for kidney disease severity.

Possibly ineffective for…

  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Cholesterol disease that runs in families (familial hypercholesterolemia).

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Depression. There is some evidence that people who take cod liver oil have fewer symptoms of depression than other people.
  • Irregular heartbeat in people with heart disease. There is some early evidence that cod liver oil might help to prevent certain types of irregular heartbeat.
  • Ear infections in young children. Preliminary research suggests that taking cod liver oil along with a children’s multivitamin-mineral product containing selenium might prevent or decrease the number of ear infections in young children.
  • Heart disease.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
  • Wound healing.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate cod liver oil for these uses.

How does it work?

Cod liver oil contains certain “fatty acids” that prevent the blood from clotting easily. These fatty acids also reduce pain and swelling.

Are there safety concerns?

Cod liver oil is LIKELY SAFE for most people. It can cause side effects including belching, bad breath, heartburn, and nosebleeds. Taking cod liver oil with meals can often decrease these side effects.

High doses are POSSIBLY UNSAFE. They might keep blood from clotting and can increase the chance of bleeding. Vitamin A and vitamin D levels might also become too high with high doses of cod liver oil. High doses might also cause nausea and loose stools.

The safety of cod liver oil when used on the skin is unknown.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of cod liver oil during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

High blood pressure: Cod liver oil can lower blood pressure and might cause blood pressure to go too low if used along with medications for high blood pressure. Be careful when using cod liver oil if you are taking high blood pressure drugs.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Cod liver oil seems to decrease blood pressure. Taking cod liver oil along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.

Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Cod liver oil might slow blood clotting. Taking cod liver oil along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), dipyridamole (Persantine), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Cod liver oil might slow blood clotting. Using cod liver oil with herbs and supplements that also slow blood clotting might increase the chance of bruising and bleeding in some people. These herbs include angelica, borage seed oil, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, red clover, turmeric, willow, and others.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:

  • For lowering triglycerides: 20 mL of cod liver oil per day.
  • For high cholesterol: 30 mL of cod liver oil per day.
  • For lowering blood pressure: 20 mL of cod liver oil per day.
 

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Raeder MB, Steen VM, Vollset SE, Bjelland I. Associations between cod liver oil use and symptoms of depression: The Hordaland Health Study. J Affect Disord 2007;101:245-9. View abstract.
  2. Farmer A, Montori V, Dinneen S, Clar C. Fish oil in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2001;3:CD003205. View abstract.
  3. Linday LA, Dolitsky JN, Shindledecker RD, Pippenger CE. Lemon-flavored cod liver oil and multivitamin-mineral supplement for the secondary prevention of otitis media in young children: pilot research. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 2002:111:642-52.. View abstract.

Coconut water

What is it?

Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside immature coconuts. As the coconut matures, the water is replaced by coconut meat.

Coconut water is sometimes referred to as green coconut water because the immature coconuts are green in color.

Coconut water is different than coconut milk. Coconut milk is produced from an emulsion of the grated meat of a mature coconut.

Coconut water is commonly used as a beverage and as a solution for treating dehydration related to diarrhea or exercise. It is also tried for high blood pressure.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for COCONUT WATER are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Diarrhea-related dehydration. Some research shows that consuming coconut water can help prevent dehydration in children with mild diarrhea. But there is no reliable evidence that it is any more effective than other beverages for this use.
  • Exercise-related dehydration. Some athletes use coconut water to replace fluids after exercise. Coconut water seems to help rehydrate after exercise, but it does not appear to be more effective than sports drinks or plain water.
  • High blood pressure. Some research suggests that drinking coconut water might lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of coconut water for these uses.

How does it work?

Coconut water is rich in carbohydrates and electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Because of this electrolyte composition, there is a lot of interest in using coconut water to treat and prevent dehydration. But some experts suggest that the electrolyte composition in coconut water is not adequate to be used as a rehydration solution.

Are there safety concerns?

Coconut water is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when consumed as a drink. There are no known serious side effects.

Coconut water is POSSIBLY SAFE for children.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of coconut water during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

High blood pressure: Coconut water might lower blood pressure. It can increase the effects of medications used to lower blood pressure. Discuss your use of coconut water with your healthcare provider if you have blood pressure problems.

Surgery: Coconut water might interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. Stop using coconut water at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Coconut water might decrease blood pressure. Taking coconut water along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.

Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
Coconut water might lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure might lower blood pressure too much. Some of these products include danshen, epimedium, ginger, Panax ginseng, turmeric, valerian, and others.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

  1. Alleyne T, Roache S, Thomas C, Shirley A. The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby: two tropical food drinks. West Indian Med J 2005;54:3-8. View abstract.
  2. Ismail I, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG. Rehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2007;38:769-85. View abstract.
  3. Saat M, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG, Nawawi M. Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002;21:93-104. View abstract.

 

 

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Background

  • Green, black, and oolong teas all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but are prepared using different methods. To produce green tea, fresh leaves from the plant are lightly steamed.
  • Tea has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years.
  • Current uses of green tea as a beverage or dietary supplement include improving mental alertness, relieving digestive symptoms and headaches, and promoting weight loss. Green tea and its extracts, such as one of its components, EGCG, have been studied for their possible protective effects against heart disease and cancer.
  • Green tea is consumed as a beverage. It is also sold in liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets and is sometimes used in topical products (intended to be applied to the skin).

How Much Do We Know?

  • Although many studies have been done on green tea and its extracts, definite conclusions cannot yet be reached on whether green tea is helpful for most of the purposes for which it is used.

What Have We Learned?

  • There’s evidence that green tea enhances mental alertness, as would be expected because of its caffeine content.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a specific green tea extract ointment as a prescription drug for treating genital warts.
  • Studies of green tea and cancer in people have had inconsistent results. The National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against using green tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer.
  • Very few long-term studies have investigated the effects of tea on heart disease risk. However, the limited evidence currently available suggests that both green and black tea might have beneficial effects on some heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Green tea extracts haven’t been shown to produce a meaningful weight loss in overweight or obese adults. They also haven’t been shown to help people maintain a weight loss.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is funding research on green tea and its extracts, including studies of the effects of high doses of tea components on the liver, whether substances in green tea can be helpful for iron overload disease, and the safety of a component of green tea in people who are HIV-positive.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • Green tea, when consumed as a beverage, is believed to be safe when used in moderate amounts.
  • Liver problems have been reported in a small number of people who took concentrated green tea extracts. Although the evidence that the green tea products caused the liver problems is not conclusive, experts suggest that concentrated green tea extracts be taken with food and that people discontinue use and consult a health care provider if they have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice.
  • Except for decaffeinated green tea products, green tea and green tea extracts contain substantial amounts of caffeine. Too much caffeine can make people feel jittery and shaky; interfere with sleep; and cause headaches.
  • Green tea has been shown to reduce blood levels (and therefore the effectiveness) of the drug nadolol, a beta-blocker used for high blood pressure and heart problems. It may also interact with other medicines.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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