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4 Natural Supplements That Are as Powerful as Drugs

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By Kris Gunnars

Most supplements don't really work, or at least haven't been proven to work. However, there are some exceptions to this. In fact, a few supplements are so effective that they are comparable to pharmaceutical drugs.

Here are four natural health boosting supplements that are as powerful as drugs (if not more):

Garlic and curcumin are two natural supplements that boost your immune health.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

1. Berberine Drastically Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Improves Metabolic Health

Berberine is a bioactive substance that is extracted from certain plants.

It isn't well known, but may just be the single most powerful supplement on earth.

Berberine provides all sorts of health benefits, but is particularly effective at lowering blood sugar levels (1).

It is believed to lower blood sugar via numerous mechanisms, including reducing glucose production in the liver and improving insulin sensitivity (2, 3).

Studies have shown that taking berberine can lower blood sugar levels to a similar extent as the popular diabetes drug metformin (4).

In a study of 116 patients with type 2 diabetes, berberine lowered fasting blood sugar levels by 20 percent and HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels) by 12 percent (5).

Berberine is also very effective at improving other health markers. It leads to major reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, and lowers blood triglycerides and blood pressure levels, which should lead to a reduced risk of heart disease (1, 6, 7, 8).

Berberine has also been shown to have anti-bacterial effects, and may be protective against heart failure, cancer and Alzheimer's disease (9, 10, 11, 12).

Keep in mind that berberine is a very powerful supplement, with a wide range of biological effects, so use it with caution.

Definitely consult with your doctor if you are currently taking any other medications.

Bottom Line: Berberine is a powerful supplement. It can lead to major reductions in blood sugar levels and improvements in most major risk factors for heart disease, to name a few.

2. Curcumin (From Turmeric) is a Potent Anti-Inflammatory Agent

Turmeric is a popular spice, known for giving curry its yellow color.

It has been used in India for thousands of years as a medicinal herb.

Turmeric contains a powerful biologically active substance called curcumin, which has been studied thoroughly in recent years (13).

Curcumin fights inflammation at the molecular level by blocking an inflammatory signalling molecule called NF-kB (14, 15).

It is so effective that it has compared favorably to anti-inflammatory drugs in some studies, without any major side effects (16, 17).

For example, it has been shown to be very effective in treating arthritis. In a study of 45 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, 500 mg of curcumin per day was more effective than the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (18).

Curcumin also has numerous other health benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant, can improve heart health, and may help prevent cancer and Alzheimer's (19, 20, 21 22).

According to one study, curcumin can also help fight depression. In this study of 60 depressed patients, curcumin was as effective as the antidepressant drug prozac (23).

Curcumin is poorly absorbed, so it is better to get a supplement that also contains piperine/bioperine, which has been shown to enhance absorption by 2,000 percent (24).

Bottom Line: Curcumin is the biologically active agent in turmeric. It is a very powerful anti-inflammatory substance that may help fight numerous diseases.

3. Red Yeast Rice Contains a Natural Statin, Which Can Lower Cholesterol and Help Prevent Heart Disease

Statin drugs are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world.

They inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver, leading to significantly reduced cholesterol levels in the blood.

Interestingly, an extract of a type of fermented rice called red yeast rice may have similar effects.

Red yeast rice contains a substance called monacolin K, which is identical to the statin drug Lovastatin (25).

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According to a review that looked at 93 controlled trials, red yeast rice can lower total cholesterol by 34 mg/dL, LDL by 28 mg/dL, triglycerides by 35 mg/dL and increase HDL (the “good" cholesterol) by 6 mg/dL, on average (26).

In a massive Chinese study of 5,000 heart attack patients, red yeast rice lowered the risk of subsequent heart attacks by 45 percent and reduced the risk of dying during the study period by 33 percent (27).

Unfortunately, the amount of the active ingredient can vary up to 100-fold, depending on which brand of red yeast rice you get (28).

Therefore, there is no guarantee that you are getting a pharmacologically active dose, and it may not work as well as it did in the studies.

Keep in mind that, although “natural," red yeast rice functions just like a statin drug, and may have similar side effects.

Definitely do not take this supplement without speaking to your doctor first.

Bottom Line: Red yeast rice contains a substance that is identical to the statin drug Lovastatin. It can significantly reduce cholesterol levels, and lowers the risk of heart attacks and death in people who already have heart disease.

4. Garlic Can Cause Major Reductions in Blood Pressure

Garlic is arguably one of the tastiest ingredients in the world.

It has been used as a medicinal plant for a very long time, including by the Greeks and the Romans (29).

The main effects of garlic are mediated by its active compound, allicin, which is highly beneficial for heart health (30).

Studies have shown that garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol by about 10-15 percent, on average (31, 32, 33).

Even more importantly, it can significantly lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and early death (34, 35).

In people with high blood pressure, garlic can lower systolic blood pressure by 8.4 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure by 7.3 mmHg, on average (36).

In one study of 210 people with high blood pressure, aged garlic extract was even more effective than the blood pressure lowering drug atenolol (37).

Garlic also appears to be effective at boosting immune function and helping to fight the common cold, the world's most common infectious disease.

In one study, it reduced the number of colds by 63%, and reduced the duration of cold symptoms by 70%, or from an average of 5 days to an average of 1.5 days (38).

Bottom Line: Garlic has a wide range of biological effects. It can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and help fight the common cold.

Take Home Message

Supplements, no matter how effective, can never replace a healthy lifestyle with real food, exercise and good sleep.

That being said, these natural supplements may be useful for people who need some “biological assistance," but still want to keep things as natural as possible.

Keep in mind that these supplements are incredibly powerful, and should be treated with respect.

If you currently have a medical condition or take any medication, then consult with your doctor before trying any of this out.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Brazilians living in The Netherlands organized a demonstration in solidarity with rainforest protectors and against the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 1 in The Hague, Netherlands. Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Tara Smith

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have jumped 84 percent during President Jair Bolsonaro's first year in office and in July 2019 alone, an area of rainforest the size of Manhattan was lost every day. The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they're not beyond human culpability.

Bolsonaro ran for president promising to "integrate the Amazon into the Brazilian economy". Once elected, he slashed the Brazilian environmental protection agency budget by 95 percent and relaxed safeguards for mining projects on indigenous lands. Farmers cited their support for Bolsonaro's approach as they set fires to clear rainforest for cattle grazing.

Bolsonaro's vandalism will be most painful for the indigenous people who call the Amazon home. But destruction of the world's largest rainforest may accelerate climate change and so cause further suffering worldwide. For that reason, Brazil's former environment minister, Marina Silva, called the Amazon fires a crime against humanity.

From a legal perspective, this might be a helpful way of prosecuting environmental destruction. Crimes against humanity are international crimes, like genocide and war crimes, which are considered to harm both the immediate victims and humanity as a whole. As such, all of humankind has an interest in their punishment and deterrence.

Historical Precedent

Crimes against humanity were first classified as an international crime during the Nuremberg trials that followed World War II. Two German Generals, Alfred Jodl and Lothar Rendulic, were charged with war crimes for implementing scorched earth policies in Finland and Norway. No one was charged with crimes against humanity for causing the unprecedented environmental damage that scarred the post-war landscapes though.

Our understanding of the Earth's ecology has matured since then, yet so has our capacity to pollute and destroy. It's now clear that the consequences of environmental destruction don't stop at national borders. All humanity is placed in jeopardy when burning rainforests flood the atmosphere with CO₂ and exacerbate climate change.

Holding someone like Bolsonaro to account for this by charging him with crimes against humanity would be a world first. If successful, it could set a precedent which might stimulate more aggressive legal action against environmental crimes. But do the Amazon fires fit the criteria?

Prosecuting crimes against humanity requires proof of widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population. If a specific part of the global population is persecuted, this is an affront to the global conscience. In the same way, domestic crimes are an affront to the population of the state in which they occur.

When prosecuting prominent Nazis in Nuremberg, the US chief prosecutor, Robert Jackson, argued that crimes against humanity are committed by individuals, not abstract entities. Only by holding individuals accountable for their actions can widespread atrocities be deterred in future.

The International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has promised to apply the approach first developed in Nuremberg to prosecute individuals for international crimes that result in significant environmental damage. Her recommendations don't create new environmental crimes, such as "ecocide", which would punish severe environmental damage as a crime in itself. They do signal, however, a growing appreciation of the role that environmental damage plays in causing harm and suffering to people.

The International Criminal Court was asked in 2014 to open an investigation into allegations of land-grabbing by the Cambodian government. In Cambodia, large corporations and investment firms were being given prime agricultural land by the government, displacing up to 770,000 Cambodians from 4m hectares of land. Prosecuting these actions as crimes against humanity would be a positive first step towards holding individuals like Bolsonaro accountable.

But given the global consequences of the Amazon fires, could environmental destruction of this nature be legally considered a crime against all humanity? Defining it as such would be unprecedented. The same charge could apply to many politicians and business people. It's been argued that oil and gas executives who've funded disinformation about climate change for decades should be chief among them.

Charging individuals for environmental crimes against humanity could be an effective deterrent. But whether the law will develop in time to prosecute people like Bolsonaro is, as yet, uncertain. Until the International Criminal Court prosecutes individuals for crimes against humanity based on their environmental damage, holding individuals criminally accountable for climate change remains unlikely.

This story originally appeared in The Conversation. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Author, social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaking on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, 2018. Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Natalie Hanman

Why are you publishing this book now?

I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?

When I look back, I don't think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It's more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that's always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What's stopping the left doing this?

In a North American context, it's the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we've got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what's left, we've got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we're not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there aregoing to be benefits: we'll have more livable cities, we'll have less polluted air, we'll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?

I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we're not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We're talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we're in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don't we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don't think it's coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.

That is one of the most chilling sections of your book: I think that's a link a lot of people haven't made.

This pattern has been clear for a while. White supremacy emerged not just because people felt like thinking up ideas that were going to get a lot of people killed but because it was useful to protect barbaric but highly profitable actions. The age of scientific racism begins alongside the transatlantic slave trade, it is a rationale for that brutality. If we are going to respond to climate change by fortressing our borders, then of course the theories that would justify that, that create these hierarchies of humanity, will come surging back. There have been signs of that for years, but it is getting harder to deny because you have killers who are screaming it from the rooftops.

One criticism you hear about the environment movement is that it is dominated by white people. How do you address that?

When you have a movement that is overwhelmingly representative of the most privileged sector of society then the approach is going to be much more fearful of change, because people who have a lot to lose tend to be more fearful of change, whereas people who have a lot to gain will tend to fight harder for it. That's the big benefit of having an approach to climate change that links it to those so called bread and butter issues: how are we going to get better paid jobs, affordable housing, a way for people to take care of their families?

I have had many conversations with environmentalists over the years where they seem really to believe that by linking fighting climate change with fighting poverty, or fighting for racial justice, it's going to make the fight harder. We have to get out of this "my crisis is bigger than your crisis: first we save the planet and then we fight poverty and racism, and violence against women". That doesn't work. That alienates the people who would fight hardest for change.

This debate has shifted a huge amount in the U.S. because of the leadership of the climate justice movement and because it is congresswomen of colour who are championing the Green New Deal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaibcome from communities that have gotten such a raw deal under the years of neoliberalism and longer, and are determined to represent, truly represent, the interests of those communities. They're not afraid of deep change because their communities desperately need it.

In the book, you write: "The hard truth is that the answer to the question 'What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?' is: nothing." Do you still believe that?

In terms of the carbon, the individual decisions that we make are not going to add up to anything like the kind of scale of change that we need. And I do believe that the fact that for so many people it's so much more comfortable to talk about our own personal consumption, than to talk about systemic change, is a product of neoliberalism, that we have been trained to see ourselves as consumers first. To me that's the benefit of bringing up these historical analogies, like the New Deal or the Marshall Plan – it brings our minds back to a time when we were able to think of change on that scale. Because we've been trained to think very small. It is incredibly significant that Greta Thunberg has turned her life into a living emergency.

Yes, she set sail for the UN climate summit in New York on a zero carbon yacht ...

Exactly. But this isn't about what Greta is doing as an individual. It's about what Greta is broadcasting in the choices that she makes as an activist, and I absolutely respect that. I think it's magnificent. She is using the power that she has to broadcast that this is an emergency, and trying to inspire politicians to treat it as an emergency. I don't think anybody is exempt from scrutinising their own decisions and behaviours but I think it is possible to overemphasise the individual choices. I have made a choice – and this has been true since I wrote No Logo, and I started getting these "what should I buy, where should I shop, what are the ethical clothes?" questions. My answer continues to be that I am not a lifestyle adviser, I am not anyone's shopping guru, and I make these decisions in my own life but I'm under no illusion that these decisions are going to make the difference.

Some people are choosing to go on birth strikes. What do you think about that?

I'm happy these discussions are coming into the public domain as opposed to being furtive issues we're afraid to talk about. It's been very isolating for people. It certainly was for me. One of the reasons I waited as long as I did to try and get pregnant, and I would say this to my partner all the time – what, you want to have a Mad Max water warrior fighting with their friends for food and water? It wasn't until I was part of the climate justice movement and I could see a path forward that I could even imagine having a kid. But I would never tell anybody how to answer this most intimate of questions. As a feminist who knows the brutal history of forced sterilisation and the ways in which women's bodies become battle zones when policymakers decide that they are going to try and control population, I think that the idea that there are regulatory solutions when it comes to whether or not to have kids is catastrophically ahistorical. We need to be struggling with our climate grief together and our climate fears together, through whatever decision we decide to make, but the discussion we need to have is how do we build a world so that those kids can have thriving, zero-carbon lives?

Over the summer, you encouraged people to read Richard Powers's novel, The Overstory. Why?

It's been incredibly important to me and I'm happy that so many people have written to me since. What Powers is writing about trees: that trees live in communities and are in communication, and plan and react together, and we've been completely wrong in the way we conceptualise them. It's the same conversation we're having about whether we are going to solve this as individuals or whether we are going to save the collective organism. It's also rare, in good fiction, to valorise activism, to treat it with real respect, failures and all, to acknowledge the heroism of the people who put their bodies on the line. I thought Powers did that in a really extraordinary way.

What are you views on what Extinction Rebellion has achieved?

One thing they have done so well is break us out of this classic campaign model we have been in for a long time, where you tell someone something scary, you ask them to click on something to do something about it, you skip out the whole phase where we need to grieve together and feel together and process what it is that we just saw. Because what I hear a lot from people is, ok, maybe those people back in the 1930s or 40s could organise neighbourhood by neighbourhood or workplace by workplace but we can't. We believe we've been so downgraded as a species that we are incapable of that. The only thing that is going to change that belief is getting face to face, in community, having experiences, off our screens, with one another on the streets and in nature, and winning some things and feeling that power.

You talk about stamina in the book. How do you keep going? Do you feel hopeful?

I have complicated feelings about the hope question. Not a day goes by that I don't have a moment of sheer panic, raw terror, complete conviction that we are doomed, and then I do pull myself out of it. I'm renewed by this new generation that is so determined, so forceful. I'm inspired by the willingness to engage in electoral politics, because my generation, when we were in our 20s and 30s, there was so much suspicion around getting our hands dirty with electoral politics that we lost a lot of opportunities. What gives me the most hope right now is that we've finally got the vision for what we want instead, or at least the first rough draft of it. This is the first time this has happened in my lifetime. And also, I did decide to have kids. I have a seven year old who is so completely obsessed and in love with the natural world. When I think about him, after we've spent an entire summer talking about the role of salmon in feeding the forests where he was born in British Columbia, and how they are linked to the health of the trees and the soil and the bears and the orcas and this entire magnificent ecosystem, and I think about what it would be like to have to tell him that there are no more salmon, it kills me. So that motivates me. And slays me.

This story was originally published by The Guardian, and is republished here as part of the Covering Climate Now partnership to strengthen the media's focus on the climate crisis.

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