Herbal Supplements: Are they Safe? (cont.)

I would recommend Xenadrene 40 plus and an herb that, until recently, has been virtually unknown in the U.S., called rhodiola. It comes to us from behind the iron curtain. Today Russia is more forthcoming with many of their secrets, probably for commercial purposes. Rhodiola is indigenous to Eastern Siberia and grows in altitudes of up to 18,000 feet. Legend has it that rhodiola has been passed from generation to generation for about 3,000 years. It's said that people who drink rhodiola tea will live to be more than 100 years old. Interestingly enough, the famous people of the Georgian area of Russia use rhodiola commonly and do live to be more than 100 years old. They use it to increase physical endurance, fight fatigue, and even depression.

This is an herb that is now being clinically tested around the world and being found to put its money where its mouth is. The Russians have done research on it themselves and find it to help protect the cardiovascular system, to have antitumor activity, to help control blood sugar, to increase general immunity, and many more benefits.

I like to recommend this herb for general stress. It's like ginseng in that it acts as an adaptogen. Adaptogens help the body cope with stress as a general tonic. It is available under many labels today. I would look for one that was standardized for rosavin and secondarily for salidroside. This will ensure that you are getting a good extract. Two brands that come to mind are Herb Fighter Select and a product called Rhodax by Pinnalce/Bodionics. Those are two companies that use good raw material and are both available via an online search.

I personally came across this herb before it was commercially available on the market. I was researching herbs that helped reduced altitude sickness. I was planning a high-altitude mountain climb in the Andes. I found rhodiola mentioned in studies and worked my way to a Russian biochemist named Zakir Ramazanov. He was kind enough to send me a plastic bag full of powder. I then became the pharmacist I was trained to be and punched my own capsules. I found that after using the herb for a short period of time my recovery after prolonged workouts shortened and my performance during exercise increased. Today rhodiola is available widely.

Dr. Presser, we are almost out of time. Do you have any final words for us?

Time flies when you're having fun. I love to talk about herbs and can do it all day and all night. I promise to come back and talk another day. In the meantime, my take-home message is that herbs are good for you, but they are not warm fuzzies. We need to treat them with respect, know what we're doing, not work in a vacuum, and not rely on them as a substitute for professional medical advice when indicated.

You can reach me through the American Academy of Nutrition (aan.edu). At the site you can write your question and put down that you want to reach Dr. Presser. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thanks to Arthur Presser, PharmD, DHPh, for sharing his expertise with us. For more information, please read his book, Pharmacist's Guide to Medicinal Herbs.

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