Natural Supplements for Patient Conditions

Natural Supplements for Patient Conditions

            As acupuncture providers, we know that there are many natural supplements that are helpful coupled with a patient’s acupuncture treatment to enhance their results. Many patients tend to shy away from using natural or herbal supplements because they aren’t as familiar with them as western medicine supplements, but there are ways to educate patients letting them know their benefits, proper dosage, and reassure them that they are safe to take.

Herbal Supplement Basics

            Natural supplements are beneficial at ensuring that patients keep their bodies functioning at their best, and boost what may be lacking within the body. The main difference between natural supplements and other supplements is that natural supplements are derived from natural resources like plants and herbs, and other supplements tend to be made synthetically. When they are made synthetically, you are not getting the full benefit from the supplement you’re taking.

Reasons natural supplements should be considered by patients:

  • Natural and herbal supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – while they do fall under the category of dietary supplements, but companies are required to include specific information on their natural and herbal products to assure that dangerous products are removed from the market. Supplements must be free of contaminants and be accurately labeled, have research to support claims of the product benefits, and avoid making specific medical claims. The FDA requires that the supplement labels include the name of the supplement, the name and address of the manufacturer, complete list of ingredients, and serving size.

  • Boost acupuncture treatment for specific healthcare needs – especially if a patient is trying to ween off of prescription medications so that they are on a lower dose or avoid starting them at all, taking a natural supplement can be an effective way to improve many conditions without the need for medications. They are helpful for such specific health needs as digestive function, improve skin, boost immunity, improve mood, and more.
Above all, the most important thing to let the patient know is to follow your instructions and/or the package for dosage. It is also vital as an acupuncture provider to go over any and all over the counter or prescription medications that the patient is currently taking. Herbal and natural supplements can sometimes change the way prescription and over the counter medications work and process the medicines in the body.

Conditions & Natural Supplements

Natural and herbal supplements are beneficial because:

  • Lower risk of side effects – these supplements tend to be better tolerated by those who have aversions to components of prescription or over the counter medications.

  • Cost effective – it is well known that many prescription medications that are needed for various conditions, one of the most well-known being insulin for diabetes, are insanely expensive. Natural supplements as a whole are much more affordable and available without a prescription, although it is important to let patients know not to take any natural or herbal supplements without recommendation from their acupuncture provider.
Aside from that, and most importantly, natural and herbal supplements are a worthwhile addition to their acupuncture treatment plan for common ailments that we see patients for every day.

Headaches/Migraines:

  • Butterbur – It is a shrub which grows in parts of Asia and Europe as well as North America. Historically, this was used to treat asthma, cough, and skin wounds, but now, it is largely for headaches or migraines as well as hay fever, urinary tract issues, anxiety, insomnia, pain, and upset stomach.

    • Suggested dosage – 50mg orally 3 times per day for 4 weeks, then 50 mg orally twice per day.

Pain/Inflammation:

  • Turmeric – It is a plant within the ginger family native to Asia, with the beneficial component being curcumin which gives turmeric that tell-tale yellow color. Historically, it was used in traditional Chinese medicine, and in India used for disorders of the skin, pain in the joints, digestive issues, and upper respiratory issues. Now, turmeric is used for a multitude of conditions, mainly pain and inflammation, but also allergies, liver disease, depression, respiratory infections, arthritis, and more.

    • Suggested dosage – up to 1.5 grams per day for up to 9 months. Extracts are the most potent having the highest concentration of curcumin, but 1 teaspoon of the powder can be added to warm water 3 times daily to provide benefits as well. The World Health Organization states a good recommended amount would be 1.4mg per pound of body weight would be an acceptable daily intake for curcumin. In supplement form, 150-250mg of curcumin per serving with the rest of the capsule being filled with turmeric root powder.

Anxiety:

  • Chamomile – This herb is known for its relaxing and calming properties, and research has shown that in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, chamomile extract demonstrated considerable anxiolytic activity when compared to placebo and in its follow-up study, show the results continued to be effective after 38 weeks. It is commonly used as a tea, but supplements have been shown to have great results for general anxiety disorder.

    • Suggested dosage: tea – 1 – 4 cups per day, capsules – 400 – 1600mg in divided doses per day, extract – 1 – 4ml 3 times per day, tincture – 15ml 3 – 4 times per day.

  • Saffron – Comes from the crocus sativus flower and commonly used as a spice in the middle east and Asia. It is loaded with antioxidant compounds, and is helpful for those with anxiety when used in supplement and extract form. There are a multitude of research studies showing saffron extracts are comparable to anti-anxiety and antidepressant prescription drugs like fluoxetine and imipramine, the most notable being in a 2018 review of 100 studies regarding the benefits on saffron supplements reducing anxiety.

    • Suggested dosage: 20 – 400mg per day of saffron extract by mouth per day for up to 3 months.

Infertility/PMS/Menopause:

  • Chasteberry – Also known as chaste tree, and native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. Historically, the plant was believed to promote chastity, hence the name, and was used to decrease sexual desire, and a variety of gynecological disorders. Now, chasteberry is used for symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), breast pain and other symptoms due to the menstrual cycle, infertility, and more. It increases progesterone levels (preparing a woman for pregnancy), re-establishes & balances a woman’s cycle, and helps prevent miscarriage (due to boosted progesterone levels).

    • Suggested dosage: 20 – 40mg per day of the fruit extract, 40 drops daily of the fluid extract, and 35 – 45 drops 3 times per day of the tincture.

  • Black Cohosh – this herb is primarily used for menopausal symptoms both historically and modern day. The preparations of this herb are made from the roots and underground stems. It is a member of the buttercup family and native to North America. Helpful for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, tinnitus, vertigo, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, irritability, and nervousness.

    • Suggested dosage: 20 – 40mg tablets of extract twice per day.

Sleep:

  • Valerian – this is a plant native to Asia and Europe, and is primarily used for insomnia both historically and modern day helping people to fall asleep quicker, increase sleep amounts, and reduce restless sleep. It also treats migraine, stomach cramps, anxiety, depression, PMS, and fatigue. Regarding insomnia, it is often paired with hops to help boost the production of calming brain chemicals (GABA) to promote sleep.

    • Suggested dosage: 300 – 600mg by mouth per day for 6 weeks.

  • Kava – a member of the pepper family native to the western pacific islands. It is used for insomnia, anxiety, and various other conditions. The plant contains substances called kavalactones that evoke calm, relaxing, and happy feelings.

    • Suggested dosage: 100mg tablet 2 – 3 times per day to reach the goal of 70 – 250mg per day of kavalactones.

Depression:

  • St. John’s Wort – a plant native to Europe containing various chemicals that act on the messengers in the brain which regulate mood. While it is primarily used for depression and mood disorders, it is also used for symptoms of menopause and various other conditions. It is important to note that St. John’s Wort is indeed effective for depression, but it can also weaken the effects of many prescription medications that the patient may be taking. It is vital to obtain any and all medications they are currently on when taking intake.

    • Suggested dosage: 600 – 900mg by mouth per day for up to 12 weeks.

  • Lavender – a plant native to the Mediterranean, and while many are mostly aware of lavender as a scent, it is also used as an herbal medicine. It is primarily used in its tea and oil supplement form for depression and anxiety.

    • Suggested dosage: 80 – 160mg by mouth of the oil supplement per day for up to 10 weeks.

Cold/Flu:

  • Elderberry – a dark purple berry of the black elder tree which grows in Asia, North America, Europe, and Northern Africa. It is most commonly used for treating the common cold and flu. It is the most effective when taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms of cold and flu.

    • Suggested dosage: 1200mg by mouth per day of the fruit extract for up to 2 weeks.
  • Echinacea – it is one of the most popular herbs worldwide, and native to North America, there are nine known species of echinacea, and have been used historically by the Native Americans of the Great Plains region as medicine. It is primarily used to stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection from the common cold. In addition to being taken orally, it is used topically for wound and skin problems. It is usually taken while still healthy to help prevent a cold. The plant’s roots and upper parts are used in teas, extracts, tablets, and tinctures.

    • Suggested dosage: 300 – 500mg of the dry powdered extract three times per day. 2.5ml of the liquid extract tinctures three times per day or up to 10ml per day.

Diabetes:

  • Cinnamon – known as a spice here in the United States, but it is traditionally used medicinally derived from the bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of the cinnamon tree around for thousands of years. Some research suggests that cinnamon is beneficial for people with diabetes acting to lower blood sugar levels over a long period.

    • Suggested dosage: 1 – 3g per day (or between 120mg – 6g per day) for diabetes.

Natural Supplements for Daily Life

            There is an infinite amount more available in the realm of natural and herbal supplements that we can arm our patients with to enhance their acupuncture treatment results. It is very important, however, that we as their providers are diligent in taking the proper precautions when prescribing these supplements, as well as arming ourselves with the proper education to be able to do so.
Resources:
Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Mayo Clinic. Published January 9, 2021. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/herbal-supplements/art-20046714
St. John’s Wort. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Updated October 2020. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/st-johns-wort
St. John’s Wort and Depression: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Updated December 2017. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/st-johns-wort-and-depression-in-depth
Herbal Health Products and Supplements. Family Doctor.Org. Updated June 16, 2020. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://familydoctor.org/herbal-health-products-and-supplements/?adfree=true
Herbs and Supplements. National Library of Medicine Medline Plus. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/herb_All.html
Long-Term Chamomile Therapy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. National Library of Medicine. Updated November 14, 2014. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29057164/
Long-Term Chamomile Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. National Library of Medicine. Updated October 24, 2016. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27912875/
Chasteberry. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. July 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chasteberry
Black Cohosh. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. May 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/black-cohosh
Cinnamon. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. May 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cinnamon
Turmeric. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. May 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric
Butterbur. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. July 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/butterbur
Echinacea. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. July 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea
Kava. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. August 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/kava
Alina P. Natural Sleep Aids That May Help You Get Some Shut Eye. Updated July 8, 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-aids
Valerian. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. October 2020. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/valerian
Ryan R. Echinacea: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, and Usage. Healthline. Updated October 25, 2018. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/echinacea
Melinda R. What is Kava Kava? WebMD. March 23, 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/what-is-kava-kava#:~:text=Kava%20kava%20(%E2%80%9Ckava%E2%80%9D%20for,and%20in%20health%20food%20stores
Herbal Medicine for Depression and Anxiety. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. May 2018. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938102/#R90
Tumeric Dosage: How Much Curcumin Should You Take Per Day. Divinity Nutra. Updated March 15, 2022. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://divinitynutra.com/health/turmeric-dosage/
Chasteberry. American Family Physician. September 1, 2009. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0901/p821.html
Elderberry – Uses, Side Effects, and More. WebMD. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-434/elderberry
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