Supplements 101 and Gingko Biloba

My father in law, Bobby, bought a bunch of fancy spice racks when he moved into his new house.  He threw away all the spices and replaced them with supplement bottles.  If the GNC or Whole foods has it in a bottle marked “all-natural” then he has it too. Selenium, Saw Palmetto, St. John’s Wort, Xylitol, Super-oxygenated water (yes!), kavakavakava, Ginkgo Biloba, Grapeseed extract…just to name more than a few.

Here’s my two cents: in all of the litany/catologue of the “natural” solutions you might want to try it is unlikely that more than one or two are truly appropriate.  In those cases the dosage needs to be monitored and your physician needs to be aware that you are on it.  A great example of a good supplement gone bad is Ginkgo biloba…it has been shown to improve memory, but it can also cause easy bleeding…so if you take it your doctor needs to be aware of it (what if you were at risk for stroke and she also has you taking aspirin?  You could be in big trouble).

If you think I’m just a naysaying western trained physician here is my advice: Do some research on a well trained MD or nutritionist that has studied these supplements in detail and then approach them about what you should and shouldn’t take.  If they recommend that you take all of them…find another practitioner. If they recommend that you take only the ones they sell….find another practitioner.  A reasonable, competent provider should be able to help you decide what exotic supplements might help and which might hurt based on your other medications and conditions.

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