You know vitamin C is important to immune health—
but did you know that it’s vital for soft skin, too?
Or that the amino acid arginine can help your heart?
Or that açaí berries are packed with antioxidants?
To learn about these and other supplemental wonders,
check out our Supplement Guide.


Açaí

What It Is:
A berry native to the Amazonian rain forest

What It Does:

Usage Notes: The fresh fruit is highly perishable; most readily available in the US in juice form or as part of whole-food concentrates


Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)


What It Is:
A substance the body creates naturally

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Found in beef, broccoli and spinach, and in certain organ meats; also available in supplemental form

 

Aloe (A. vera)


What It Is: A common succulent houseplant
What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available as bitters, juice and topical gel, among other forms; the fresh leaves, split in half, can be used externally

 


Andrographis (A. paniculata)

What It Is: An herb long used in both Chinese and Indian traditional medicine

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to andrographolides, the primary active constituents


Arabinogalactan (AG)

What It Is: A form of fiber taken from the Western larch tree (Larix occidentalis)

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often used in combination with other supplements; also found in beverages and nutrition bars


Arginine

What It Is: An amino acid, or protein building block

What It Does:

Usage Notes: While the body can create its own arginine, supplements in the form of L-arginine may be best for optimal well-being; the virus that causes cold sores feeds on arginine, so avoid its use during an outbreak

 

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)

What It Is: An herb native to the Indian subcontinent; its common name roughly translates to “horse-sweat odor”

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to withanolides

 

Astragalus (A. membranaceus)

What It Is: The most commonly used herb in Chinese medicine; also known as milk vetch

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to astragalosides

 

Beta-Glucans

What It Is: One of a family of fibrous substances known as the polysaccharides; found in barley, medicinal mushrooms, brewer’s yeast and, especially, oats

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Oat beta-glucans now available in drink mixes designed to support healthy cholesterol levels

 

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

What It Is: A small shrub found throughout the Northern Hemisphere; the berry has been used by European herbalists for nearly a millennium

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to anthocyanosides

 

Blueberry

What It Is: A fruiting shrub that grows throughout the Northern Hemisphere

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available fresh, frozen or as juice, or as part of whole-food concentrates

 

Boswellia (B. serrata)

What It Is: Resin from a tree that grows throughout India, the Middle East and North Africa; also known as Indian frankincense

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to boswellic acids

 

Bromelain

What It Is: An enzyme found in pineapples

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in chewable and other forms; often combined with other digestion-promoting or anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients


Calcium

What It Is: The most abundant mineral in the body

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often available in supplement form with its nutritional partners, vitamin D and magnesium

 

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

What It Is: A daisy-like flower that grows throughout the Northern Hemisphere; also known as German chamomile

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Widely available in tea form; supplements should be standardized to apigenin

 

Cinnamon (Cinnamonium verum and cassia)

What It Is: One of the world’s most popular spices; taken from the inner bark of two related species of tropical trees

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Can be used freely in cooking; supplements should be standardized to polyphenols

 


Coleus (C. forskohlii)

What It Is: A relative of the common garden coleus; long used in India for both cooking and medicinal purposes

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to forskolin


Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

What It Is: A fatty acid found in dairy foods

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements generally derived from such plant sources as safflower oil

 

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

What It Is: A vitamin-like substance; also known as ubiquinone because it is found in every cell in the body

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Because CoQ10 is lipid-based it is best taken with fatty foods; discuss its use with your healthcare practitioner if you have a pre-existing condition, especially if you are taking prescription medication

 

Cranberry

What It Is: A fruit found in acidic bogs throughout the Northern Hemisphere; grown commercially in Canada and the northern US

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Readily available frozen or as juice (use the unsweetened variety for health purposes) and fresh during the fall and winter, or as part of whole-food concentrates

 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

What It Is: A low-growing annual with bright yellow flowers, generally regarded as a weed in lawns and gardens; both tops and roots used medicinally

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Young dandelion shoots have long been used as a spring tonic (make sure they haven’t been subject to chemical treatment); also available in supplemental form

 

Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)

What It Is: An herb native to the Far East; also known as tang kuei and Chinese angelica

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to ligustilide

 

Echinacea (various species)

What It Is: A flowering herb traditionally used in Native American medicine; also known as purple coneflower

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Species used include E. angustifolia, pallida and purpurea; supplements should be standardized to echinacosides

 

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

What It Is: An herb native to northeastern Asia, especially Siberia

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to eleutherosides

 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

What It Is: A daisy-like annual found throughout Australia, Europe and North America; also known as bachelor’s buttons

What It Does:

Usage Notes: If you are allergic to ragweed speak with your healthcare practitioner before using feverfew

 


Fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum)

What It Is: A plant with a long history of culinary use as both herb (leaves) and spice (seeds)

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements are often standardized to galactomannan


Fiber

What It Is: Indigestible plant matter; comes in two forms—soluble, which forms a gel when mixed with water, and insoluble, which doesn’t

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Old standbys include bran, flax seed and psyllium; other sources include arabinogalactan (AG), oat beta-glucans and oligosaccharides; some supplements combine fiber with herbs for specific functions, such as glucose control or immune support

 

Folic Acid

What It Is: A B vitamin found in such foods as beans, leafy greens, liver and sunflower seeds

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available by itself and in prenatal and cardiovascular support formulations

 


Garcinia (G. cambogia)

What It Is: A sweet-sour tropical fruit, used as both food and medicine in India

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Found in many weight-control formulations—it works best when teamed with other nutrients and herbs


Garlic (Allium sativum)

What It Is: A member of the onion family that’s been in culinary and medicinal use for thousands of years

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Fresh garlic may be used freely in recipes; supplemental forms are available that can reduce its distinctive odor

 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

What It Is: A popular spice taken from a rhizome cultivated in tropical climates around the world

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Can be used freely in food; supplements should be standardized to volatile oils

 


Ginkgo (G. biloba)

What It Is: An extremely long-lived tree native to eastern Asia

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to ginkgo flavone-glycosides and terpene lactones


Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

What It Is: An herb revered in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to ginsenosides; note that American ginseng is actually a different species, P. quinquefolium

 

Glucosamine

What It Is: A compound that occurs naturally in cartilage, a dense connective tissue that allows bones to make pain-free contact

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often found in supplements that also include chondroitin and MSM

 

Goji

What It Is: The fruit of an evergreen shrub native to the Himalayas and cultivated commercially in China; also known as wolfberry

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available dried, as juice or as part of whole-food concentrates

 

Gymnema (G. sylvestre)

What It Is: A climbing plant native to India, Australia and parts of Africa; known as “sugar destroyer” for its ability to prevent the tongue from tasting sweetness

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to gymnemic acids



Green Tea

What It Is: Leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, from which all varieties of non-herbal tea are derived; green tea is the least-processed type

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Can be drunk freely in either regular or decaffeinated form; also available as green tea extract


Hawthorn (Crataegus, various species)

What It Is: A long-lived tree native to the Northern Hemisphere; used traditionally as a heart tonic

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to vitexin; hawthorn’s effects generally need time to show themselves

 

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

What It Is: A tree that grows throughout the Northern Hemisphere

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Extracts should be used only, as the untreated herb contains harmful substances that are removed during processing

 


Lactium

What It Is: A milk-based protein

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in combination with traditional relaxation herbs, such as chamomile and hops


Lignan

What It Is: A fiber found in flax seed

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Ground flax seed can be added freely to the diet; lignan is also available in supplemental form


Lutein

What It Is: A reddish-orange carotenoid found in egg yolks, corn and leafy greens

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often found in both foods and supplements with its chemical partner, zeaxanthin


Lycopene

What It Is: A carotenoid found most notably in tomatoes but also in watermelon and other red or pink plant foods

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Eating lycopene-rich foods with fat increases bioavailability; also available in supplement form

 

Magnesium

What It Is: A mineral found naturally in nuts, leafy greens and other foods; magnesium deficiency is fairly common in the US

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often available in combination with calcium and vitamin D

 

Mangosteen

What It Is: Tree native to the South Pacific; known as the “Queen of Fruits” for its delicate flavor; the creamy white flesh is contained within a deep purple rind

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available as juice or as part of whole-food concentrates

 


Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

What It Is: A large mushroom native to Japan; nicknamed the “dancing mushroom” because Japanese feudal lords were alleged to pay large sums for a single maitake, causing the mushroom’s finder to dance with joy

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Can be used freely in cooking, and as tea; also available as D fraction and other supplemental forms

 

Melatonin

What It Is: A hormone produced by the pineal gland within the brain

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Discuss its use with your healthcare practitioner to determine the best time to take melatonin if you have SAD

 

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

What It Is: A perennial herb that grows throughout Europe; its common name comes from the white, milk-like markings on its leaves

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to silymarin

 

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)

What It Is: An organic form of the mineral sulfur; found throughout nature

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often combined with glucosamine and chondroitin in joint-support formulations

 

Noni

What It Is: The fruit of a tree native to Southeast Asia but now grown from India to the South Pacific

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available as juice or as part of whole-food concentrates

 

Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs)

What It Is: Phytonutrients found in a number of plants, most notably grape seeds and the bark of the French maritime pine

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in supplement form as grape seed extract and in Pycnogenol®, a pine bark extract

 


Olive Leaf

What It Is: Leaf of the same tree, Olea europa, that produces olives and olive oil

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to oleuropein


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What It Is: Essential fats found in flax seed, fatty fish and other sources

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available as both fish oil and flax seed oil; look for fish oil that meets California’s Proposition 65 anti-contamination standards

 

Pomegranate

What It Is: A small tree grown in the Mediterranean Basin, the southwestern US and other areas; the fruit is best known for its multitude of small red arils, or seed casings

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available fresh, as juice or as part of whole-food concentrates

 

Quercetin

What It Is: A phytonutrient found a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including apples and onions

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often combined with vitamin C in supplements

 


Resveratrol

What It Is: The substance in red wine responsible for its health benefits

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Grapes are the best-known source, but is also found in peanuts, pomegranates, raspberries and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)


Rhodiola (R. rosea)


What It Is:
An herb native to mountainous regions of northern Asia and Europe

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in supplement form

 

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

What It Is: An evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean area; its leaves are used in cooking

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Can be used freely as a kitchen herb; supplements should be standardized to carnosic acid

 

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

What It Is: A shrubby palm tree native to the southeastern US

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to free fatty acids

 

Selenium

What It Is: A trace mineral found in nuts (especially Brazil nuts), meat, fish and eggs

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often found in multivitamin and -mineral combinations

 

Shiitake

What It Is: An edible mushroom, Lentinula edodes, native to the Far East

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Use freely in cooking; available in supplement form, including lentinan

 


Spirulina

What It Is:
A blue-green algae

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often used in weight-control protein shakes; also available in tablet and capsule forms

 

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

What It Is: An annual flowering herb native to North Africa, Europe and western Asia; common name derived from the feast of St. John the Baptist in late June, when the plant blooms

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to hypericin; discuss its use with your healthcare practitioner before using St. John’s wort if you are currently taking prescription medication, especially antidepressants

 


Streptococcus salivarius K12

What It Is: A strain of probiotic bacteria found in the nose and throat

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in chewable forms

 

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

What It Is: A tree native to coastal areas of Australia with a long history of medicinal use by aboriginal tribes there

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Oil form for external use only; also available in a variety of soaps, shampoos and other beauty items as well as dental products such as toothpaste and toothpicks

 


Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

What It Is: A spice used in curry; its principle component is curcumin

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Turmeric can be added freely to foods; curcumin is available in supplement form

 

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

What It Is: A perennial herb native to Europe and northern Asia

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Supplements should be standardized to valerenic acid; often combined with other sedative herbs, such as chamomile, hops or passionflower

 

Vitamin A

What It Is: A overall term for a number of related compounds; the body can convert beta-carotene, an orange phytonutrient found in carrots, sweet potatoes and other foods, into vitamin A

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in combination formulas with vitamin D, another fat-soluble vitamin, and in vision support and prenatal formulations

 

Vitamin B (B-Complex)

What It Is: A group of eight related water-soluble vitamins

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in various combination formulations; individual B vitamins also available

 


Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

What It Is: The world’s best-known water-soluble antioxidant vitamin; food sources include broccoli, red peppers, citrus fruit and strawberries

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in a number of different forms, including buffered and sustained release, and with bioflavonoids, substances that often accompany vitamin C in nature; vitamin C is often included not only in multivitamins but also in anti-stress, immune defense and joint support formulas

 

Vitamin D

What It Is: A fat-soluble vitamin created within the skin when exposed to sunlight; also present in cod liver oil, fortified milk and, in limited amounts, in butter and egg yolks

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Subclinical deficiencies are not uncommon; current RDA of 400 IU, thought by many scientists to be too low, is under official review; 5,000 IU believed to be more in line with actual need

 

Vitamin E

What It Is: A collective name for substances known chemically as tocopherols and tocotrienols; dietary sources include eggs, milk, wheat germ and avocado

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Available in softgel and oil form, and in skincare products

 

Zinc

What It Is: A mineral found in red meat, oysters, beans, pumpkin seeds and other sources

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often found in supplements designed to support immune or male reproductive health; always follow package dosing directions

 

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)

What It Is: A substance the body creates from tryptophan, an essential amino acid

What It Does:

Usage Notes: Often found in combination with other sleep-support supplements

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