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Dandelion Tea great for Detox and Preventing Cancer

A GOOD HEALTH TEA

By Martin Hajek

Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 05:05am EDT

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), is unfortunately usually known for being a pesky weed, which people commonly remove from their backyards (and often spray with herbicides). However, humans have been using dandelion in food and teas for its medicinal properties for most of the recorded history. Many people still underestimate the benefits of this plant.

When we talk about the dandelion tea, we are talking about two different teas: an infusion made from the leaves and the other made from the roots.

The best way to get all of the benefits is to put the dried root and leaves into a cup of boiling water (cover and let steep for 10 minutes or longer), strain and drink it as is. The more herb you use and the longer you let it steep, the stronger the brew.

In Chinese medicine, dandelion is used to support liver health, stimulate urinary function to promote cleansing, but also for bones and joint health.

Herbalists often use this plant’s root to cleanse the liver and gallbladder, and the leaves to aid in kidney function and also as a digestive aid.

Some people also use this super-weed to treat infections, skin problems like eczema, joint pain, and even cancer. It is also extensively employed and studied as a diuretic. It is also believed to help prevent age spots and breast cancer.

Dandelion is also beneficial for brain health and acts as a neuroprotective agent due to its high luteolin content.

You can also use dandelion greens in your salads since it is very rich in nutrients, vitamins (especially beta-carotene and vitamin K), minerals and antioxidants. Do not forget about the flowering part, which is especially rich in phytonutrients.

There are some great dandelion recipe books and ready-to-use dandelion products that you can use daily for your overall health. See my recommendations at the end of this article.

Let’s take a closer look at TOP 15 HEALTH BENEFITS and USES of DANDELION:

1. LIVER DETOX

Andrew Chevallier, in his book “Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine” says that Dandelion aids to detoxify the liver and promote increased bile production.

The function of our liver is to produce bile, which helps to filter and detoxify our blood.

This medicinal weed enhances liver function by eliminating toxins and restoring hydration and electrolyte balance. Dandelion contains bitter compound taraxacin, which makes the gallbladder to contract to increase bile flow. Dandelion’s ability to increase the flow of bile helps detoxify the liver.

According to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, for all liver disorders, most effective is dandelion and burdock (+ milk thistle).

One study on mice states that dandelion leaf promotes healthy lipid profiles, lessens insulin resistance, and suppresses fat accumulation in the livers. Moreover, this plant shows a protective effect against hepatoxicity due to its antioxidant properties.

It is used with success in conditions like jaundice and hepatitis, but also cirrhosis of the liver. However, it should not be taken if you have obstructive jaundice.

2. KIDNEY CLEANSING

Dandelion leaf is a diuretic that increases urination which contributes to removing toxins and waste from the kidneys. It helps them to clean out waste, salt, and excess water. It is a good source of potassium, which helps to flush excess sodium through the kidneys.

Dandelion as a diuretic increases the excretion of water from our bodies, so it is imperative to drink enough water to compensate for the water loss. Also keep a check on your potassium levels while taking dandelion (Although it is quite rich in potassium, so it usually replenishes the levels itself).

Moreover, various herbs may have a therapeutic role in preventing and treating kidney and bladder stone formation, and Taraxacum is one of them, says the researchers.

3. PURIFIES THE BLOOD AND REMOVES TOXINS

It helps to purify the bloodeliminate toxins and improves blood circulation. Dandelions may also aid with anemia as it increases the iron in your blood.

Dandelion is rich in vitamin K (one cup fo the Greens contains over 500% RD) which was proved in a study that it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality significantly. One of the main benefits of vitamin K is its role in healthy blood clotting.

4. ANTI-CANCER

The leaves and flowers are particularly rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients which combat cancer. Due to the Dandelion’s free radical-fighting abilities, it was shown being effective in killing different cancers cells. Also, dandelion may slow cancer’s growth and prevent it from spreading. In addition, Herbal and folk medicine uses dandelion as a prevention for breast and prostate cancer.

As mentioned earlier, this plant is very high in vitamin K which significantly reduce the risk of cancer, according to a study. In fact, Vitamin K has been shown to be efficient as a natural cancer treatment.

Dandelion root has been lately studied for its cancer-fighting potential, and the results seem really encouraging. For example, a Canadian study from 2011 states that dandelion root extract induces melanoma cell death without affecting the healthy cells. Conlusioon of that study is : “dandelion root exhibits a potential non-toxic option to conventional leukemia treatment.”

Furthermore, this plant contains compound Luteolin, which is a potent flavonoid with potential for cancer prevention and therapy. In fact, it destroys vital components of cancer cells when it attaches to them, making them ineffective and unable to reproduce. (According to a prostate cancer study).

5. SKIN CONDITIONS AND INFECTIONS

Dandelion is also beneficial in several skin disorders. Topically, you can use it with success in several skin conditions, including acne.

The sap of dandelion stem helps fights skin infections as it is highly alkaline. The juice also aids in eczema and psoriasis, but also warts.

Excess toxins in our livers may be responsible for many skin and face problems, so drinking dandelion tea helps to clean out your skin as well.

6. DIGESTIVE AID AND WEIGHT LOSS

Dandelion improves digestion, may relieve heartburn and balances the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. In traditional medicine, it has been used for ages to improve appetite, ease minor digestive ailments, bloating, and relieve constipation, as it is a mild laxative.

Normal bile production supports healthy digestion. Due to its ability to increase the bile production, cholesterol and fats are broken down and eliminated from the body more efficiently. This improves the whole digestive process.

One study also shows the possible anti-obesity effects of dandelion (from a Korean study – says it could have similar effects on the body as the weight loss drug Orlistat).

7. IMMUNITY, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, ANTIOXIDANT

This super-plant also strengthens the immune system. This weed contains plenty of antioxidants and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and keep your immune system healthy. Several studies have shown potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of dandelion.

Vitamin A as a beta-carotene in dandelion provides immune support as well (just one cup of dandelion greens has over a 100% DV). It is also relatively high in vitamin C, which boosts your immunity.

Dandelion is high in antioxidants, therefore drinking Dandelion tea aids the body to avoid cell damage from free radicals.

In addition, studies suggest that dandelion can help fights off infections. In fact, a water extract of dandelion exhibits anti-influenza activity.

8. URINARY TRACT

Dandelion stimulate urinary function and inhibits microbial growth in the urinary system. This superweed’s roots and leaves may help prevent urinary tract infections as well as bladder disorders and kidney problems.

An especially effective combo is with another herb, uva ursi. This combination works because of potent anti-bacterial effects of uva ursi, and the increased urine flow associated with dandelion.

9. DIABETES HELP

Dandelion tea benefits people with diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas and regulating blood sugar levels. Keeping pancreas healthy, so it can produce proper amounts of insulin, is vital in the prevention of diabetes.

Modern mammal studies show that dandelion helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, mostly through its ability to control the lipid levels.

Also, thanks to its diuretic properties, Dandelion tea helps the body remove excess sugar stored in your body.

10. GALLBLADDER HEALTH

Dandelion raises bile production and lessens the inflammation to aid with gallbladder problems and blockages. It may also help prevent gallbladder stones (but you should not take it without medical supervision when you have active gallstones or any blockages).

For a stronger effect on your liver and gallbladder health, consider also taking artichoke, burdock root and milk thistle seed along with dandelion.

11. CHOLESTEROL AND HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Dandelion root is often used to increase bile production to break down fats and remove cholesterol from the body.

Studies done on rabbits have shown that dandelion reduces and controls cholesterol levels while improving cholesterol ratios by raising the good ‘HDL’. The study also says that Dandelion is beneficial in preventing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis and reducing risk factors for coronary artery disease.

This plant also assist in regulating blood pressure due to the fiber and potassium content and thanks to its diuretic properties.

12. BONE AND JOINT HEALTH

This plant is very rich in Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a major role in bone and heart health. Your body needs it for controlling binding of calcium in the bones and other tissues. Nowadays, good calcium supplements already contains vitamin K, D, and magnesium.

Vitamin K, like calcium, is classified as a bone-enhancing nutrient. Studies suggest that vitamin K can improve bone health and reduce the risk of bone fractures. Humans deficient in vitamin K are at a greater risk. Vitamin K seems to build bones better than a calcium! Vitamin K deficiencies are quite common, as you can find it mostly in Green Leafy Vegetables, and most of us do not eat enough greens.

Dandelion also contains 10% of calcium per cup which protects your bones as well.

Furthermore, a recent study from 2015 says that Taraxasterol (a compound isolated from dandelion) may be a useful agent for prevention and treatment of Osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative joint disease.

13. TONSILS AND SORE THROAT

Chinese herbal remedies are commonly used to treat a sore throat in China and are used globally by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.

Dandelion shows promise in Inflammation of the tonsils (Tonsillitis). An early study found that humans who had their tonsils removed recovered quicker if they ate soup bearing dandelion compared to those who ate soup without it. In fact, “Dandelion soup was more effective than sodium penicillin for acute purulent tonsillitis.”

14. BRAIN HEALTH, LUTEOLIN

Dandelion has a positive impact on your brain health as well. What makes dandelion useful as a natural nootropic is its large Luteolin content. Luteolin from dandelion is a natural nootropic that works directly within the brain.

“Tranquility Labs research has found that dandelion extract is one of the most potent sources of Luteolin in the world (almost 10 times stronger than artichoke).”

Luteolin is a flavonoid that can eradicate free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory agent. This is crucial when it comes to brain function, memory, and cognition. It can lessen inflammation in the brain which is responsible for causing memory and cognitive dysfunction.

According to Dr. Johnson of the University of Illinois:

“Luteolin can be used to mitigate age-associated inflammation and therefore improve cognitive function and avoid some of the cognitive deficits that occur in aging.”

Furthermore, in a study, Luteolin has been shown to Reduce Alzheimer’s Disease Pathologies Induced by Traumatic Brain Injury.

15. DANDELION FLOWERS

Let’s not forget about dandelion flowering parts, which shows that:

  • have higher levels of polyphenols
  • have greater antioxidant properties
  • contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds
  • may act as chemopreventive agents

16. MORE POSSIBLE USES AND BENEFITS

  • excellent for fluid retention problems
  • may ease menopausal symptoms
  • reduces uric acid levels
  • improves the functioning of pancreas
  • helps with constipation (dandelion is a mild laxative), and contains fiber
  • muscular rheumatism (acording to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC)
  • may help with some hormone imbalances (especially oestrogen excess, according to Dr. Sarah Brewer)
  • hypoglycaemia
  • congestive heart failure: should be prescribed for every case of oedema of heart origin (according to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine)
  • Dandelion is also used as a bitter tonic in atonic dyspepsia
  • A water extract of the roots and leaves demonstrated antidepressant effects in an animal model
  • extract of the root has protective action against alcohol-induced toxicity in the liver
  • may aslo help with lung inflammation “(compound Taraxasterol inhibits cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation)”

Safety:

Dandelion is usually safe in food and medicinal levels. However, as with any herb, some people may have an allergic reaction to it. If you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications (especially with effect on the liver), you should talk to a health care professional before taking. Dandelion is a potent diuretic, so don’t overdo it and do not combine with other diuretics ! Also not recommended for people with active gallstones, biliary tract obstruction, and obstructive jaundice. When you add dandelion to your diet in any way, start small and monitor your body’s response.

Willow Bark active ingredient.

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What is it?

Willow bark is the bark from several varieties of the willow tree, including white willow or European willow, black willow or pussy willow, crack willow, purple willow, and others. The bark is used to make medicine.

Willow bark acts a lot like aspirin, so it is used for pain, including headache, muscle or joint pain, menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, gout, and a disease of the spine called ankylosing spondylitis.

Willow bark’s pain relieving potential has been recognized throughout history. Willow bark was commonly used during the time of Hippocrates, when people were advised to chew on the bark to relieve pain and fever.

Willow bark is also used for the common cold, flu, and weight loss.

Salicin, the active ingredient in willow bark, seems to have contributed to the death of the composer, Ludwig von Beethoven. Apparently, Beethoven ingested large amounts of salicin before he died. His autopsy report is the first recorded case of a particular type of kidney damage that can be caused by salicin.

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 WILLOW BARK are as follows:

Possibly effective for…

  • Treating lower back pain. Willow bark seems to reduce lower back pain. Higher doses seem to be more effective than lower doses. It can take up to a week for significant improvement in symptoms.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Joint pain. Research shows that taking a specific product containing glucosamine sulfate, methylsufonlylmethane, white willow bark extract, ginger root concentrate, boswellia extract, turmeric root extract, cayenne, and hyaluronic acid (Instaflex Joint Support, Direct Digital, Charlotte, NC) in three divided doses daily for 8 weeks reduces joint pain. But this product doesn’t seem to help joint stiffness or function.
  • Weight loss. Early research suggests that taking willow bark in combination with ephedra and cola nut might cause slight weight loss in overweight and obese people. However, it is not wise to use this combination because of safety concerns about ephedra. Ephedra has been banned in the United States due to severe harmful side effects.
  • Osteoarthritis. Research on willow bark extract for osteoarthritis has produced conflicting results. Some research shows it can reduce osteoarthritis pain. In fact, there is some evidence suggesting that willow bark extract works as well as conventional medications for osteoarthritis. But other research shows no benefit.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research suggests that willow bark extract is not effective for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Joint pain.
  • Treating fever.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of willow bark for these uses.

How does it work?

Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin that is similar to aspirin.

Are there safety concerns?

Willow bark is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for a short time (up to 12 weeks).

It may cause headaches, stomach upset, and digestive system upset. It can also cause itching, rash, and allergic reactions, particularly in people allergic to aspirin.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the safety of using willow bark during pregnancy. It’s best to avoid using it.

Using willow bark while breast-feeding is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Willow bark contains chemicals that can enter breast milk and have harmful effects on the nursing infant. Don’t use it if you are breast-feeding.

Children: Willow bark is POSSIBLY UNSAFE n children when taken by mouth for viral infections such as colds and flu. There is some concern that, like aspirin, it might increase the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome. Stay on the safe side and don’t use willow bark in children.

Bleeding disorders: Willow bark might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Kidney disease: Willow bark might reduce blood flow through the kidneys, which might lead to kidney failure in certain people. If you have kidney disease, don’t use willow bark.

Sensitivity to aspirin: People with ASTHMA, STOMACH ULCERS, DIABETES, GOUT, HEMOPHILIA, HYPOPROTHROMBINEMIA, or KIDNEY or LIVER DISEASE might be sensitive to aspirin and also willow bark. Using willow bark might cause serious allergic reactions. Avoid use.

Surgery: Willow bark might slow blood clotting. There is a concern it could cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using willow bark at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Willow bark might slow blood clotting. Taking willow bark along with medications that also slow blood 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.

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Acetazolamide
Willow bark contains chemicals that might increase the amount of acetazolamide in the blood. Taking willow bark along with acetazolamide might increase the effects and side effects of acetazolamide.
Aspirin
Willow bark contains chemicals similar to aspirin. Taking willow bark along with aspirin might increase the effects and side effects of aspirin.
Choline Magnesium Trisalicylate (Trilisate)
Willow bark contains chemicals that are similar to choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate). Taking willow bark along with choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate) might increase the effects and side effects of choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate).
Salsalate (Disalcid)
Salsalate (Disalcid) is a type of medicine called a salicylate. It’s similar to aspirin. Willow bark also contains a salicylate similar to aspirin. Taking salsalate (Disalcid) along with willow bark might increase the effects and side effects of salsalate (Disalcid).

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Willow bark can slow blood clotting. Using it along with other herbs that can also slow blood clotting might increase the chance of bleeding and bruising in some people. These herbs include clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, meadowsweet, red clover, and others.
Herbs that contain an aspirin-like chemical (Salicylate)
Willow bark contains a chemical that is similar to an aspirin-like chemical called salicylate. Taking willow bark along with herbs that contain salicylate may increase salicylate effects and adverse effects. Salicylate-containing herbs include aspen bark, black haw, poplar, and meadowsweet.

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 back pain: Willow bark extract providing 120-240 mg salicin has been used. The higher 240 mg dose might be more effective.

Methodology

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

References

  1. Wuthold K, Germann I, Roos G, et al. Thin-layer chromatography and multivariate data analysis of willow bark extracts. J Chromatogr Sci. 2004;42:306-9. View abstract.
  2. Uehleke B, Müller J, Stange R, Kelber O, Melzer J. Willow bark extract STW 33-I in the long-term treatment of outpatients with rheumatic pain mainly osteoarthritis or back pain. Phytomedicine. 2013 Aug 15;20:980-4. View abstract.
  3. Beer AM, Wegener T. Willow bark extract (Salicis cortex) for gonarthrosis and coxarthrosis–results of a cohort study with a control group. Phytomedicine. 2008 Nov;15:907-13. View abstract.

Chasteberry

Buried Treasure Women's Change - 16 Fl Oz

Background

  • Chasteberry is the fruit of the chaste tree, which is native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean region.
  • The plant was believed to promote chastity (hence its name). Monks in the Middle Ages reportedly used it to decrease sexual desire.
  • Chasteberry was also used for reproductive disorders.
  • Today, chasteberry is used as a dietary supplement for menstrual problems, menopause symptoms, infertility, and other conditions.
  • Chasteberry is available as a liquid extract, capsules, tablets, and an essential oil.

How Much Do We Know?

  • There’s not a lot of strong research on the effectiveness of chasteberry for any condition. We do have some clear safety information on the herb.

What Have We Learned?

  • A few preliminary studies found that chasteberry may improve some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome but the evidence isn’t firm.
  • Researchers have studied chasteberry for breast pain and infertility, but there isn’t enough reliable scientific evidence to know if it helps.
  • There’s no evidence that chasteberry helps with menopausal symptoms.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • When used in limited amounts, chasteberry appears to be generally well tolerated. Few side effects have been reported.
  • Women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, or who have a hormone-sensitive condition (such as breast cancer) should not use chasteberry.
  • People taking dopamine-related medications, such as certain antipsychotic drugs and Parkinson’s disease medications should avoid using chasteberry.

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.

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

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What is calcium and what does it do?

Adora Calcium Supplement Disk - Organic - Dark Chocolate - 30 Ct - 1 Case

 

Calcium is a mineral found in many foods. The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. Almost all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness.

The body also needs calcium for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part. In addition, calcium is used to help blood vessels move blood throughout the body and to help release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body.

How much calcium do I need?

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

Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 200 mg
Infants 7–12 months 260 mg
Children 1–3 years 700 mg
Children 4–8 years 1,000 mg
Children 9–13 years 1,300 mg
Teens 14–18 years 1,300 mg
Adults 19–50 years 1,000 mg
Adult men 51–70 years 1,000 mg
Adult women 51–70 years 1,200 mg
Adults 71 years and older 1,200 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens 1,300 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults 1,000 mg

 

What foods provide calcium?

Calcium is found in many foods. You can get recommended amounts of calcium by eating a variety of foods, including the following:

  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the main food sources of calcium for the majority of people in the United States.
  • Kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are fine vegetable sources of calcium.
  • Fish with soft bones that you eat, such as canned sardines and salmon, are fine animal sources of calcium.
  • Most grains (such as breads, pastas, and unfortified cereals), while not rich in calcium, add significant amounts of calcium to the diet because people eat them often or in large amounts.
  • Calcium is added to some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice beverages, and tofu. To find out whether these foods have calcium, check the product labels.

What kinds of calcium dietary supplements are available?

Calcium is found in many multivitamin-mineral supplements, though the amount varies by product. Dietary supplements that contain only calcium or calcium with other nutrients such as vitamin D are also available. Check the Supplement Facts label to determine the amount of calcium provided.

The two main forms of calcium dietary supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate is inexpensive, but is absorbed best when taken with food. Some over-the-counter antacid products, such as Tums® and Rolaids®, contain calcium carbonate. Each pill or chew provides 200–400 mg of calcium. Calcium citrate, a more expensive form of the supplement, is absorbed well on an empty or a full stomach. In addition, people with low levels of stomach acid (a condition more common in people older than 50) absorb calcium citrate more easily than calcium carbonate. Other forms of calcium in supplements and fortified foods include gluconate, lactate, and phosphate.

Calcium absorption is best when a person consumes no more than 500 mg at one time. So a person who takes 1,000 mg/day of calcium from supplements, for example, should split the dose rather than take it all at once.

Calcium supplements may cause gas, bloating, and constipation in some people. If any of these symptoms occur, try spreading out the calcium dose throughout the day, taking the supplement with meals, or changing the supplement brand or calcium form you take.

Am I getting enough calcium?

Many people don’t get recommended amounts of calcium from the foods they eat, including:

  • Boys aged 9 to 13 years,
  • Girls aged 9 to 18 years,
  • Women older than 50 years,
  • Men older than 70 years.

When total intakes from both food and supplements are considered, many people—particularly adolescent girls—still fall short of getting enough calcium, while some older women likely get more than the upper limit. See our Health Professional Fact Sheet on Calcium for more details.

Certain groups of people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough calcium:

  • Postmenopausal women because they experience greater bone loss and do not absorb calcium as well. Sufficient calcium intake from food, and supplements if needed, can slow the rate of bone loss.
  • Women of childbearing age whose menstrual periods stop (amenorrhea) because they exercise heavily, eat too little, or both. They need sufficient calcium to cope with the resulting decreased calcium absorption, increased calcium losses in the urine, and slowdown in the formation of new bone.
  • People with lactose intolerance cannot digest this natural sugar found in milk and experience symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea when they drink more than small amounts at a time. They usually can eat other calcium-rich dairy products that are low in lactose, such as yogurt and many cheeses, and drink lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk.
  • Vegans (vegetarians who eat no animal products) and ovo-vegetarians (vegetarians who eat eggs but no dairy products), because they avoid the dairy products that are a major source of calcium in other people’s diets.

Many factors can affect the amount of calcium absorbed from the digestive tract, including:

  • Age. Efficiency of calcium absorption decreases as people age. Recommended calcium intakes are higher for people over age 70.
  • Vitamin D intake. This vitamin, present in some foods and produced in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight, increases calcium absorption.
  • Other components in food. Both oxalic acid (in some vegetables and beans) and phytic acid (in whole grains) can reduce calcium absorption. People who eat a variety of foods don’t have to consider these factors. They are accounted for in the calcium recommended intakes, which take absorption into account.

Many factors can also affect how much calcium the body eliminates in urine, feces, and sweat. These include consumption of alcohol- and caffeine-containing beverages as well as intake of other nutrients (protein, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus). In most people, these factors have little effect on calcium status.

What happens if I don’t get enough calcium?

Insufficient intakes of calcium do not produce obvious symptoms in the short term because the body maintains calcium levels in the blood by taking it from bone. Over the long term, intakes of calcium below recommended levels have health consequences, such as causing low bone mass (osteopenia) and increasing the risks of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Symptoms of serious calcium deficiency include numbness and tingling in the fingers, convulsions, and abnormal heart rhythms that can lead to death if not corrected. These symptoms occur almost always in people with serious health problems or who are undergoing certain medical treatments.

What are some effects of calcium on health?

Scientists are studying calcium to understand how it affects health. Here are several examples of what this research has shown:

Bone health and osteoporosis

Bones need plenty of calcium and vitamin D throughout childhood and adolescence to reach their peak strength and calcium content by about age 30. After that, bones slowly lose calcium, but people can help reduce these losses by getting recommended amounts of calcium throughout adulthood and by having a healthy, active lifestyle that includes weight-bearing physical activity (such as walking and running).

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones in older adults (especially women) in which the bones become porous, fragile, and more prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is a serious public health problem for more than 10 million adults over the age of 50 in the United States. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes as well as regular exercise are essential to keep bones healthy throughout life.

Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of breaking a bone and the risk of falling in frail, elderly adults who live in nursing homes and similar facilities. But it’s not clear if the supplements help prevent bone fractures and falls in older people who live at home.

Cancer

Studies have examined whether calcium supplements or diets high in calcium might lower the risks of developing cancer of the colon or rectum or increase the risk of prostate cancer. The research to date provides no clear answers. Given that cancer develops over many years, longer term studies are needed.

Cardiovascular disease

Some studies show that getting enough calcium might decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. Other studies find that high amounts of calcium, particularly from supplements, might increase the risk of heart disease. But when all the studies are considered together, scientists have concluded that as long as intakes are not above the upper limit, calcium from food or supplements will not increase or decrease the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure

Some studies have found that getting recommended intakes of calcium can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension). One large study in particular found that eating a diet high in fat-free and low-fat dairy products, vegetables, and fruits lowered blood pressure.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition in which a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and kidney problems that cause protein to spill into the urine. It is a leading cause of sickness and death in pregnant women and their newborn babies. For women who get less than about 900 mg of calcium a day, taking calcium supplements during pregnancy (1,000 mg a day or more) reduces the risk of preeclampsia. But most women in the United States who become pregnant get enough calcium from their diets.

Kidney stones

Most kidney stones are rich in calcium oxalate. Some studies have found that higher intakes of calcium from dietary supplements are linked to a greater risk of kidney stones, especially among older adults. But calcium from foods does not appear to cause kidney stones. For most people, other factors (such as not drinking enough fluids) probably have a larger effect on the risk of kidney stones than calcium intake.

Weight loss

Although several studies have shown that getting more calcium helps lower body weight or reduce weight gain over time, most studies have found that calcium—from foods or dietary supplements—has little if any effect on body weight and amount of body fat.

For more information on calcium and weight loss, see our consumer fact sheet on Weight Loss.

Can calcium be harmful?

Getting too much calcium can cause constipation. It might also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc, but this effect is not well established. In adults, too much calcium (from dietary supplements but not food) might increase the risk of kidney stones. Some studies show that people who consume high amounts of calcium might have increased risks of prostate cancer and heart disease, but more research is needed to understand these possible links.

The upper limits for calcium are listed below. Most people do not get amounts above the upper limits from food alone; excess intakes usually come from the use of calcium supplements. Surveys show that some older women in the United States probably get amounts somewhat above the upper limit since the use of calcium supplements is common among these women.

Life Stage Upper Limit
Birth to 6 months 1,000 mg
Infants 7–12 months 1,500 mg
Children 1–8 years 2,500 mg
Children 9–18 years 3,000 mg
Adults 19–50 years 2,500 mg
Adults 51 years and older 2,000 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens 3,000 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults 2,500 mg

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

Calcium dietary supplements can interact or interfere with certain medicines that you take, and some medicines can lower or raise calcium levels in the body. Here are some examples:

  • Calcium can reduce the absorption of these drugs when taken together:
    • Bisphosphonates (to treat osteoporosis)
    • Antibiotics of the fluoroquinolone and tetracycline families
    • Levothyroxine (to treat low thyroid activity)
    • Phenytoin (an anticonvulsant)
    • Tiludronate disodium (to treat Paget’s disease).
  • Diuretics differ in their effects. Thiazide-type diuretics (such as Diuril® and Lozol®) reduce calcium excretion by the kidneys which in turn can raise blood calcium levels too high. But loop diuretics (such as Lasix® and Bumex®) increase calcium excretion and thereby lower blood calcium levels.
  • Antacids containing aluminum or magnesium increase calcium loss in the urine.
  • Mineral oil and stimulant laxatives reduce calcium absorption.
  • Glucocorticoids (such as prednisone) can cause calcium depletion and eventually osteoporosis when people use them for months at a time.

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.

Calcium 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 calcium?

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: November 17, 2016

What are the benefits of Cascara

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Cascara is a shrub. The dried bark is used to make medicine.

Cascara used to be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug for constipation. However, over the years, concerns were raised about cascara’s safety and effectiveness. The FDA gave manufacturers the chance to submit safety and effectiveness information to answer these concerns. But the companies decided the cost of conducting safety and effectiveness studies would likely be more than the profit they could expect from sales of cascara. So they didn’t comply with the request. As a result, the FDA notified manufacturers to remove or reformulate all OTC laxative products containing cascara from the U.S. market by November 5, 2002. Today, you can buy cascara as a “dietary supplement,” but not as a drug. “Dietary supplements” don’t have to meet the standards that the FDA applies to OTC or prescription drugs.

Cascara is used as a laxative for constipation, as well as a treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, and cancer. Some people use it as a “bitter tonic.”

In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.

In manufacturing, cascara is used in the processing of some sunscreens.

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 CASCARA are as follows:

Possibly effective for…

  • Constipation. Cascara has laxative effects and may help relieve constipation in some people.

Possibly ineffective for…

  • Bowel preparation before colonoscopy. Most research shows that taking cascara along with magnesium sulfate or milk of magnesia does not improve bowel cleansing in people who are undergoing a colonoscopy.

How does it work?

Cascara contains chemicals that stimulate the bowel and have a laxative effect.

Are there safety concerns?

Cascara is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth for less than one week. Side effects include stomach discomfort and cramps.

Cascara is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used long-term. Don’t use cascara for longer than one or two weeks. Long-term use can cause more serious side effects including dehydration; low levels of potassium, sodium, chloride, and other “electrolytes” in the blood; heart problems; muscle weakness; and others.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of cascara during pregnancy. Stay on the safe side and avoid use if you are pregnant. Cascara is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth while breast-feeding. Cascara can cross into breast milk and might cause diarrhea in a nursing infant.

Children: Cascara is POSSIBLY UNSAFE in children when taken by mouth. Don’t give cascara to children. They are more likely than adults to become dehydrated and also harmed by the loss of electrolytes, especially potassium.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as intestinal obstruction, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, stomach ulcers, or unexplained stomach pain: People with any of these conditions should not use cascara.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Digoxin (Lanoxin)
Cascara is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the risk of side effects of digoxin (Lanoxin).
Medications for inflammation (Corticosteroids)
Some medications for inflammation can decrease potassium in the body. Cascara is a type of laxative that might also decrease potassium in the body. Taking cascara along with some medications for inflammation might decrease potassium in the body too much.

Some medications for inflammation include dexamethasone (Decadron), hydrocortisone (Cortef), methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisone (Deltasone), and others.

Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs)
Cascara is a laxative. Laxatives can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs. Decreasing how much medicine your body absorbs can decrease the effectiveness of your medication.
Stimulant laxatives
Cascara is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. Taking cascara along with other stimulant laxatives could speed up the bowels too much and cause dehydration and low minerals in the body.

Some stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others.

Warfarin (Coumadin)
Cascara can work as a laxative. In some people cascara can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin, do not take excessive amounts of cascara.
Water pills (Diuretic drugs)
Cascara is a laxative. Some laxatives can decrease potassium in the body. “Water pills” can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking cascara along with “water pills” might decrease potassium in the body too much.

Some “water pills” that can decrease potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Chromium-containing herbs and supplements
Cascara contains chromium and could increase the risk of chromium poisoning when taken with chromium supplements or chromium-containing herbs such as bilberry, brewer’s yeast, or horsetail.
Herbs that contain cardiac-glycosides
Cardiac glycosides are chemicals that are similar to the prescription drug digoxin. Cardiac glycosides can cause the body to lose potassium.

Cascara can also cause the body to lose potassium because it is a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. As a result, food may not remain in the intestine long enough for the body to absorb minerals such as potassium. This can lead to lower than ideal potassium levels.

Using cascara along with an herb that contains cardiac glycosides can cause the body to lose too much potassium, and this can cause heart damage. Herbs that contain cardiac glycosides include black hellebore, Canadian hemp roots, digitalis leaf, hedge mustard, figwort, lily of the valley roots, motherwort, oleander leaf, pheasant’s eye plant, pleurisy root, squill bulb leaf scales, star of Bethlehem, strophanthus seeds, and uzara. Avoid using cascara with any of these.

Horsetail
Horsetail increases the production of urine (acts as a diuretic) and this can cause the body to lose potassium.

Cascara can also cause the body to lose potassium because it is a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. As a result, food may not remain in the intestine long enough for the body to absorb minerals such as potassium. This can lead to lower than ideal potassium levels.

If potassium levels drop too low, the heart may be damaged. There is a concern that using horsetail with cascara increases the risk of losing too much potassium and increases the risk of heart damage. Avoid using cascara with horsetail.

Licorice
Licorice causes the body to lose potassium.

Cascara can also cause the body to lose potassium because it is a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. As a result, food may not remain in the intestine long enough for the body to absorb minerals such as potassium. This can lead to lower than ideal potassium levels.

If potassium levels drop too low, the heart may be damaged. There is a concern that using licorice with cascara increases the risk of losing too much potassium and increases the risk of heart damage. Avoid using cascara with licorice.

Stimulant laxative herbs
Cascara is a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. As a result, food may not remain in the intestine long enough for the body to absorb minerals such as potassium. This can lead to lower than ideal potassium levels.

There is a concern that taking cascara along with other stimulant laxatives herbs can make potassium levels drop too low, and this can harm the heart. Other stimulant laxative herbs are aloe, alder buckthorn, black root, blue flag, butternut bark, colocynth, European buckthorn, fo ti, gamboge, gossypol, greater bindweed, jalap, manna, Mexican scammony root, rhubarb, senna, and yellow dock. Avoid using cascara with any of these.

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:

  • As a laxative for constipation: 20-30 mg per day of the active ingredient (hydroxyanthracene derivatives). A typical dose is 1 cup of tea, which is made by steeping 2 grams of finely chopped bark in 150 mL of boiling water for 5-10 minutes, and then straining. The cascara liquid extract is taken in a dose of 2-5 mL three times daily. The appropriate amount of cascara is the smallest dose that is needed to maintain soft stools.

Methodology

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

References

  1. Chang, L. C., Sheu, H. M., Huang, Y. S., Tsai, T. R., and Kuo, K. W. A novel function of emodin: enhancement of the nucleotide excision repair of UV- and cisplatin-induced DNA damage in human cells. Biochem Pharmacol 1999;58:49-57.
  2. Chang, C. J., Ashendel, C. L., Geahlen, R. L., McLaughlin, J. L., and Waters, D. J. Oncogene signal transduction inhibitors from medicinal plants. In Vivo 1996;10:185-190.
  3. Chen, H. C., Hsieh, W. T., Chang, W. C., and Chung, J. G. Aloe-emodin induced in vitro G2/M arrest of cell cycle in human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells. Food Chem Toxicol 2004;42:1251-1257.

Chromium What is it?

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BURIED TREASURE MINERALS

BURIED TREASURE ACTIVE 55

NATROL CHROMIUM

 

Chromium: What is it?

Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts, although its mechanisms of action in the body and the amounts needed for optimal health are not well defined. It is found primarily in two forms: 1) trivalent (chromium 3+), which is biologically active and found in food, and 2) hexavalent (chromium 6+), a toxic form that results from industrial pollution. This fact sheet focuses exclusively on trivalent (3+) chromium.

Chromium is known to enhance the action of insulin [1-3], a hormone critical to the metabolism and storage of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the body [4]. In 1957, a compound in brewers’ yeast was found to prevent an age-related decline in the ability of rats to maintain normal levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood [3]. Chromium was identified as the active ingredient in this so-called “glucose tolerance factor” in 1959 [5].

Chromium also appears to be directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism [1-2,6-11], but more research is needed to determine the full range of its roles in the body. The challenges to meeting this goal include:

  • Defining the types of individuals who respond to chromium supplementation;
  • Evaluating the chromium content of foods and its bioavailability;
  • Determining if a clinically relevant chromium-deficiency state exists in humans due to inadequate dietary intakes; and
  • Developing valid and reliable measures of chromium status [9].

What foods provide chromium?

Chromium is widely distributed in the food supply, but most foods provide only small amounts (less than 2 micrograms [mcg] per serving). Meat and whole-grain products, as well as some fruits, vegetables, and spices are relatively good sources [12]. In contrast, foods high in simple sugars (like sucrose and fructose) are low in chromium [13].

Dietary intakes of chromium cannot be reliably determined because the content of the mineral in foods is substantially affected by agricultural and manufacturing processes and perhaps by contamination with chromium when the foods are analyzed [10,12,14]. Therefore, Table 1, and food-composition databases generally, provide approximate values of chromium in foods that should only serve as a guide.

Table 1: Selected food sources of chromium [12,15-16]
Food Chromium (mcg)
Broccoli, ½ cup 11
Grape juice, 1 cup 8
English muffin, whole wheat, 1 4
Potatoes, mashed, 1 cup 3
Garlic, dried, 1 teaspoon 3
Basil, dried, 1 tablespoon 2
Beef cubes, 3 ounces 2
Orange juice, 1 cup 2
Turkey breast, 3 ounces 2
Whole wheat bread, 2 slices 2
Red wine, 5 ounces 1–13
Apple, unpeeled, 1 medium 1
Banana, 1 medium 1
Green beans, ½ cup 1

What are recommended intakes of chromium?

Recommended chromium intakes are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences [14]. Dietary Reference Intakes is the general term for a set of reference values to plan and assess the nutrient intakes of healthy people. These values include the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and the Adequate Intake (AI). The RDA is the average daily intake that meets a nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98%) healthy individuals [14]. An AI is established when there is insufficient research to establish an RDA; it is generally set at a level that healthy people typically consume.

In 1989, the National Academy of Sciences established an “estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake” range for chromium. For adults and adolescents that range was 50 to 200 mcg [17]. In 2001, DRIs for chromium were established. The research base was insufficient to establish RDAs, so AIs were developed based on average intakes of chromium from food as found in several studies [14]. Chromium AIs are provided in Table 2.

Table 2: Adequate Intakes (AIs) for chromium [14]
Age Infants and children
(mcg/day)
Males
(mcg/day)
Females
(mcg/day)
Pregnancy
(mcg/day)
Lactation
(mcg/day)
0 to 6 months 0.2
7 to 12 months 5.5
1 to 3 years 11
4 to 8 years 15
9 to 13 years 25 21
14 to 18 years 35 24 29 44
19 to 50 years 35 25 30 45
>50 years 30 20

mcg = micrograms

Adult women in the United States consume about 23 to 29 mcg of chromium per day from food, which meets their AIs unless they’re pregnant or lactating. In contrast, adult men average 39 to 54 mcg per day, which exceeds their AIs [14].

The average amount of chromium in the breast milk of healthy, well-nourished mothers is 0.24 mcg per quart, so infants exclusively fed breast milk obtain about 0.2 mcg (based on an estimated consumption of 0.82 quarts per day) [14]. Infant formula provides about 0.5 mcg of chromium per quart [18]. No studies have compared how well infants absorb and utilize chromium from human milk and formula [10,14].

What affects chromium levels in the body?

Absorption of chromium from the intestinal tract is low, ranging from less than 0.4% to 2.5% of the amount consumed [19-25], and the remainder is excreted in the feces [1,23]. Enhancing the mineral’s absorption are vitamin C (found in fruits and vegetables and their juices) and the B vitamin niacin (found in meats, poultry, fish, and grain products) [26]. Absorbed chromium is stored in the liver, spleen, soft tissue, and bone [27].

The body’s chromium content may be reduced under several conditions. Diets high in simple sugars (comprising more than 35% of calories) can increase chromium excretion in the urine [13]. Infection, acute exercise, pregnancy and lactation, and stressful states (such as physical trauma) increase chromium losses and can lead to deficiency, especially if chromium intakes are already low [28-29].

When can a chromium deficiency occur?

In the 1960s, chromium was found to correct glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in deficient animals, two indicators that the body is failing to properly control blood-sugar levels and which are precursors of type 2 diabetes [1]. However, reports of actual chromium deficiency in humans are rare. Three hospitalized patients who were fed intravenously showed signs of diabetes (including weight loss, neuropathy, and impaired glucose tolerance) until chromium was added to their feeding solution. The chromium, added at doses of 150 to 250 mcg/day for up to two weeks, corrected their diabetes symptoms [7,30-31]. Chromium is now routinely added to intravenous solutions.

Who may need extra chromium?

There are reports of significant age-related decreases in the chromium concentrations of hair, sweat and blood [32], which might suggest that older people are more vulnerable to chromium depletion than younger adults [14]. One cannot be sure, however, as chromium status is difficult to determine [33]. That’s because blood, urine, and hair levels do not necessarily reflect body stores [9,14]. Furthermore, no chromium-specific enzyme or other biochemical marker has been found to reliably assess a person’s chromium status [9,34].

There is considerable interest in the possibility that supplemental chromium may help to treat impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes, but the research to date is inconclusive. No large, randomized, controlled clinical trials testing this hypothesis have been reported in the United States [14]. Nevertheless, this is an active area of research.

What are some current issues and controversies about chromium?

Chromium has long been of interest for its possible connection to various health conditions. Among the most active areas of chromium research are its use in supplement form to treat diabetes, lower blood lipid levels, promote weight loss, and improve body composition.

Type 2 diabetes and glucose intolerance

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin but, for unknown reasons, the body cannot use the insulin effectively. The disease typically occurs, in part, because the cells comprising muscle and other tissues become resistant to insulin’s action, especially among the obese. Insulin permits the entry of glucose into most cells, where this sugar is used for energy, stored in the liver and muscles (as glycogen), and converted to fat when present in excess. Insulin resistance leads to higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia).

Chromium deficiency impairs the body’s ability to use glucose to meet its energy needs and raises insulin requirements. It has therefore been suggested that chromium supplements might help to control type 2 diabetes or the glucose and insulin responses in persons at high risk of developing the disease. A review of randomized controlled clinical trials evaluated this hypothesis [35]. This meta-analysis assessed the effects of chromium supplements on three markers of diabetes in the blood: glucose, insulin, and glycated hemoglobin (which provides a measure of long-term glucose levels; also known as hemoglobin A1C). It summarized data from 15 trials on 618 participants, of which 425 were in good health or had impaired glucose tolerance and 193 had type 2 diabetes. Chromium supplementation had no effect on glucose or insulin concentrations in subjects without diabetes nor did it reduce these levels in subjects with diabetes, except in one study. However, that study, conducted in China (in which 155 subjects with diabetes were given either 200 or 1,000 mcg/day of chromium or a placebo) might simply show the benefits of supplementation in a chromium-deficient population.

Overall, the value of chromium supplements for diabetes is inconclusive and controversial [36]. Randomized controlled clinical trials in well-defined, at-risk populations where dietary intakes are known are necessary to determine the effects of chromium on markers of diabetes [35]. The American Diabetes Association states that there is insufficient evidence to support the routine use of chromium to improve glycemic control in people with diabetes [37]. It further notes that there is no clear scientific evidence that vitamin and mineral supplementation benefits people with diabetes who do not have underlying nutritional deficiencies.

Lipid metabolism

The effects of chromium supplementation on blood lipid levels in humans are also inconclusive [1,8,38]. In some studies, 150 to 1,000 mcg/day has decreased total and low-density-lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased concentrations of apolipoprotein A (a component of high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol known as HDL or “good” cholesterol) in subjects with atherosclerosis or elevated cholesterol or among those taking a beta-blocker drug [39-41]. These findings are consistent with the results of earlier studies [42-45].

However, chromium supplements have shown no favorable effects on blood lipids in other studies [46-51]. The mixed research findings may be due to difficulties in determining the chromium status of subjects at the start of the trials and the researchers’ failure to control for dietary factors that influence blood lipid levels [9-10].

Body weight and composition

Chromium supplements are sometimes claimed to reduce body fat and increase lean (muscle) mass. Yet a recent review of 24 studies that examined the effects of 200 to 1,000 mcg/day of chromium (in the form of chromium picolinate) on body mass or composition found no significant benefits [11]. Another recent review of randomized, controlled clinical trials did find supplements of chromium picolinate to help with weight loss when compared wtth placebos, but the differences were small and of debatable clinical relevance [52]. In several studies, chromium’s effects on body weight and composition may be called into question because the researchers failed to adequately control for the participants’ food intakes. Furthermore, most studies included only a small number of subjects and were of short duration [36].

For additional information on chromium and body weight, see our health professional fact sheet on Weight Loss.

What are the health risks of too much chromium?

Few serious adverse effects have been linked to high intakes of chromium, so the Institute of Medicine has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for this mineral [10,14]. A UL is the maximum daily intake of a nutrient that is unlikely to cause adverse health effects. It is one of the values (together with the RDA and AI) that comprise the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for each nutrient.

Chromium and medication interactions

Certain medications may interact with chromium, especially when taken on a regular basis (see Table 3). Before taking dietary supplements, check with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, especially if you take prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Table 3: Interactions between chromium and medications [14,53-55]
Medications Nature of interaction
  • Antacids
  • Corticosteroids
  • H2 blockers (such as cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, and rantidine)
  • Proton-pump inhibitors (such as omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeprazole, pantoprazole, and esomeprazole)
These medications alter stomach acidity and may impair chromium absorption or enhance excretion
  • Beta-blockers (such as atenolol or propanolol)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Insulin
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Prostaglandin inhibitors (such as ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, piroxicam, and aspirin)
These medications may have their effects enhanced if taken together with chromium or they may increase chromium absorption

Supplemental sources of chromium

Chromium is a widely used supplement. Estimated sales to consumers were $85 million in 2002, representing 5.6% of the total mineral-supplement market [56]. Chromium is sold as a single-ingredient supplement as well as in combination formulas, particularly those marketed for weight loss and performance enhancement. Supplement doses typically range from 50 to 200 mcg.

The safety and efficacy of chromium supplements need more investigation. Please consult with a doctor or other trained healthcare professional before taking any dietary supplements.

Chromium supplements are available as chromium chloride, chromium nicotinate, chromium picolinate, high-chromium yeast, and chromium citrate. Chromium chloride in particular appears to have poor bioavailability [36]. However, given the limited data on chromium absorption in humans, it is not clear which forms are best to take.

Chromium and Healthful Diets

The federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that “Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. … Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more 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.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans describes a healthy eating pattern as one that:

  • Includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, and oils.
    Whole grain products and certain fruits and vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, grape juice, and oranges are sources of chromium. Ready-to-eat bran cereals can also be a relatively good source of chromium.
  • Includes a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products.
    Lean beef, oysters, eggs, and turkey are sources of chromium.
  • Limits saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs.

References

  1. Mertz W. Chromium occurrence and function in biological systems. Physiol Rev 1969;49:163-239.
  2. Mertz W. Chromium in human nutrition: a review. J Nutr 1993;123:626-33.
  3. Mertz W. Interaction of chromium with insulin: a progress report. Nutr Rev 1998;56:174-7.
  4. Porte Jr. D, Sherwin RS, Baron A (editors). Ellengerg & Rifkin’s Diabetes Mellitus, 6th Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York, 2003.
  5. Schwarz K, Mertz W. Chromium(III) and the glucose tolerance factor. Arch Biochem Biophys 1959;85:292-5.

Gelatin- What Is It?

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Gelatin is a protein made from animal products.

Gelatin is used for weight loss and for treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Some people also use it for strengthening bones, joints, and fingernails. Gelatin is also used for improving hair quality and to shorten recovery after exercise and sports-related injury.

In manufacturing, gelatin is used for preparation of foods, cosmetics, and medicines.

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 GELATIN are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • A kind of arthritis called osteoarthritis. There is some clinical evidence that gelatin might relieve pain and improve joint function in patients with osteoarthritis.
  • Brittle bones (osteoporosis).
  • Strengthening bones and joints.
  • Strengthening fingernails.
  • Improving hair quality.
  • Weight loss.
  • Shortening recovery after exercise and sports-related injury.
  • Other conditions.

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

How does it work?

Gelatin contains collagen, which is one of the materials that make up cartilage and bone. This is why some people think gelatin might help for arthritis and other joint conditions.

Are there safety concerns?

Gelatin is LIKELY SAFE for most people in food amounts and POSSIBLY SAFE in the larger amounts used as medicine. There’s some evidence that gelatin in doses up to 10 grams daily can be safely used for up to 6 months.

Gelatin can cause an unpleasant taste, sensation of heaviness in the stomach, bloating, heartburn, and belching. Gelatin can cause allergic reactions in some people.

There is some concern about the safety of gelatin because it comes from animal sources. Some people are worried that unsafe manufacturing practices might lead to contamination of gelatin products with diseased animal tissues including those that might transmit mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). Although this risk seems to be low, many experts advise against using animal-derived supplements like gelatin.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of gelatin in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Are there interactions with medications?

It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.

Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of gelatin 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 gelatin. 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.

Methodology

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

References

  1. Miller, L. G. Observations on the distribution and ecology of Clostridium botulinum type E in Alaska. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 1982;21:926.
  2. Kawahara H, Tanaka K Iikura Y Akasawa A Saito H. The incidence of gelatin allergy among atopic children in Japan. J Allergy Clin.Immunol. 1998;103:321-325.
  3. Morganti, P and Fanrizi, G. Effects of gelatin-glycine on oxidative stress. Cosmetics and Toiletries (USA) 2000;115:47-56.Gelatin

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