Nutritional Supplements and Herbs

Discover Which Medicinal Herbs Should Be In Your Health Supplement

When it comes to nutritional supplements and herbs there is literally a mountain load of products to choose from! 

Most premium-grade, multi-ingredient natural health supplements have some herbal ingredients and these should be considered critical ingredients.

Therefore, to help us decipher whether a supplement is as good as it is marketed to be, by its manufacturer, one area worthy of close examination is that of herbal ingredients. Are they among the most effective, 'clinically-proven' medicinal herbs?  Do they offer a wider range of disease-busting health benefits?  Herbs and herbal extracts are far from all equal.

Let's Find Out

Not only are herbs able to treat specific medical conditions by tackling the root cause(s) in the body (unlike drugs which simply treat or mask only the symptoms), they are also being used by pro-active healthy people as a form of on-going preventative health-care due to their potent therapeutic properties.

This is an important consideration when you're selecting a nutritional vitamin supplement especially if your taking it to promote overall good health and wellness and guard against the onset of degenerative disease.

The problem of course is that the multitude of supplement choices available are far from equal with some having been put together very poorly by marketers, doctors and minimally qualified scientists.

The weak regulatory structure of the supplement industry has allowed this to happen. These types of supplements are not based on good science, let alone the latest cutting edge nutritional science which is constantly changing.

Many multi ingredient vitamin supplements contain poor choices of less effective (but cheaper) herbal ingredients, in the wrong forms and with insignificant potencies and amounts, far below the levels which have produced health benefits in credible clinical studies. 

The industry's best supplement formulators are bio-scientists and chemists who have individually produced numerous pharmaceutical and natural health formulations.

They understand every facet of the body including, how the active ingredients are going to reach their target cells, through what metabolic pathways, and what or if any molecular changes will take place on the way to the cells due to interaction with enzymes and stomach acids. 

He/she must also understand the interaction of all the nutrients in the formula and what co-factors to include ensuring greater synergy and bioavailability (absorption) for maximum efficacy.

That's why the best supplement formulators have a pharmaceutical background!

The wrong ingredients when combined can create new substances some of which are undesirable and even dangerous.

Did you know that certain herbs when combined can cancel each other out! What a waste of money for the consumer who is paying for ingredients that they ultimately don't get.

I'm sure it goes without saying that health conscious, supplement consumers  want to avoid the weak, and 'middle-of-the-road', less effective supplements which litter the industry!

What you're up against are those clever marketing presentations of many supplement companies, especially large multinationals with huge budgets, which are designed to hide product weaknesses from you and make a supplement appear better than it actually is.

They wow you with fancy buzz terms and scientific lingo, which make their products seem a lot better than they really are.

These companies have huge shareholder pressure to constantly increase their bottom line. For example are you aware of the current (mid 2007) troubles of Usana, one of the industry's biggest and most well known U.S. supplement manufacturers?

The purpose of my website is to reveal all of this to you and teach you what should be in supplements, why, and how to evaluate and compare supplements yourself without relying much on marketing literature from untrustworthy, bottom-line focused supplement manufacturers.

I know what supplement companies get up to because I used to work for a high-quality supplement manufacturer.

I'm aware of the 'tricks of the trade' and having researched supplements since the late 1990's I know well what should and shouldn't be in these products, particularly nutritional supplements with herbs. 

I have access to some of the industry's leading bio-scientists. The scientist who formulated the multi ingredient supplement that my family and I use has produced over 170 new pharmaceutical and health supplement formulas!

Believe me when I tell you that the supplement I take works fantastically. That's why not only my entire family use it but many of my relatives and many of my friends and professional colleagues as well.

View the supplement that I use

Naturally you want to zero in on the absolute best vitamin supplements which contain the most effective medicinal herbs, in the right and safest forms and with suitable potencies and therapeutic dose amounts.
So, I'll set out for you below what you need to look for.

But firstly we need to start with some critical 'herb basics' and then we'll look at the names of the superstar herbals.

Keep in mind that medicinal herbs are the oldest type of health-care known to man. Records show that ancient civilizations used herbs as natural cures extensively to treat almost every known illness. It's hard to argue with hundreds of years worth of recorded results (even though the Western medical establishment, with its total pharmaceutical mindset, does exactly that!)

A significant and growing body of (reliable and transparent) clinical research now supports many of the long-known therapeutic activities of various herbs and this research is growing all the time.

A great deal of further research is needed however because only approximately 15 percent of the estimated plant species on our planet have been studied for medicinal use.


Potency of Herbs

Most ingredients in supplements have a wide variance of potencies but this is especially true for ingredients derived from plant sources such as herbs and herbal extracts. Herbal potencies can range from:

A few percent up to 99 %

Do you ever look at the potencies of herbal ingredients when purchasing  supplements?.

The three most common forms of herbs are: 

  • Whole herb (powdered)
  • Herbal Extract
  • Standardized Herbal Extract

Which is the best form?  Well, the truth is we still don't know for sure.

Whole herbs suggest a more holistic approach with multiple compounds in the herb containing various constituents working synergistically together. So there's probably more than one mechanism of action. 

The problem is that scientists have identified and studied such a small number of all constituents in all plant species so we just don’t know what they all do or how they interact together.

It’s likely that some are of little to no medicinal use and are not worth having and paying for in a supplement. They may be taking up space in a tablet that could be more effectively used by other already proven active components.

As far as herbal extracts are concerned, science has shown that certain specific active ingredients produce significant health benefits. This is the pharmaceutical approach to health-care – looking at the pharmacological value of individual active ingredients.

I believe that when it comes to extracts containing 'proven' actives it is logical to assume that these are preferable to unknown quantities in whole herbs.

Since herbal extracts target active ingredients, they are certainly many times more powerful than those in whole herbs. A problem however exists in that the amounts of these actives can vary tremendously depending upon the way herbs are grown and processed. 

Some herbal extracts have been estimated to vary in potency 10,000-fold amongst various products from the same plant. (1) 

So, when dealing with nutritional supplements containing herbals the need to study the potencies of plant sourced ingredients is clear.

Standardization - Your Key To Quality

Standardization is a process that supplement manufacturers rely on to ensure batch to batch consistency of herbal nutrition supplements. 

Standardization has become the industry standard

This is your guarantee that for each and every bottle of supplements you buy any herbal extracts present will always have exactly the same potency. So, once again when it comes to any nutritional supplements containing herbs there is a need to study the label beyond a quick glance. Look for the words 'standardized herbal extracts'. 

Many less reputable supplement companies do not use standardized extracts because they are significantly more expensive than non-standardized extracts. Even some of the largest, most well known US based supplement companies slip some non- standardized extracts into their supplement formulas. Look through the rest of this site and you'll find out who they are!!

In the case of herbs containing actives with proven pharmacological benefits, standardized herbal extracts are what you want!

Safety - For the Lifestyle You Want

Herbal ingredients are most susceptible to contamination, some of which can be toxic or carcinogenic.

If you are interested in nutritional supplements and herbs then this should be of particular interest to you as the use of herbs requires strict preparation, handling and testing protocols in order to guarantee safety and effectiveness.

If you're interested in testing protocols, please follow this link to another page on this site where you can read about nutritional supplement testing


Nutritional supplements with herbs – but which herbs? Let's make a list of the most effective herbs, backed by clinical evidence. You'll find more of these, in greater dose amount and higher potencies in the most effective vitamin supplements at the upper end of the market place. 

They are the herbs which can target and support major systems and organs in your body (including your brain) and offer wider ranges of health benefits than other herbs. 

Yes, it is possible to get almost all of these miraculous herbs in the one supplement - less of course the female support nutrients if you're using a formula for males and vice versa. I'll let you know the name of that supplement after a discussion of each herb on our list. Let's see how many you've heard of or have some knowledge about.

Turmeric Extract

Turmeric is a wonderful herb which has a long standing reputation as a potent medicinal herb capable of improving numerous health conditions. It is now being studied for its anti-cancer & tumor suppressing properties.

Turmeric is most well known over the longest period of time for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cleansing properties (detox). It also has pain reducing properties. Because of its ability to treat multiple health conditions turmeric is an absolute key herb that should be in your natural health supplement (in generous doses). Look for at least 150mg. 

Ginkgo Biloba Extract

Ginkgo is primarily a neuro-nutrient and is the most commonly used nutrient to improve memory.

There is a great deal of clinical evidence, especially in Europe, supporting Gingko’s potential to boost memory and brain function. All quality multi ingredient health supplements should include some neuro-nutrients which target the brain and Gingko Biloba should definitely be one of them. 

Green Tea Extract

Another fantastic, multi-purpose medicinal herb. Green tea can improve brain performance; treat stomach disorders, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches. It is used as a diuretic and in combination products for weight loss. 

Green tea appears beneficial in solid tumor cancers and to reduce the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and gastric cancer. It is also used to prevent skin damage and cancer related to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (e.g. sunburn) and other environmental causes.

Green tea also contains 2-4% caffeine or 10-80mg caffeine per cup. The caffeine in green tea acts as a central nervous system stimulant; increases blood pressure, heart rate and contractility; inhibits platelet aggregation; stimulates gastric acid secretion; and causes diuresis. The caffeine is also thought to be responsible for green tea's ability to improve cognitive performance.

Olive Leaf Extract

Olive leaf is a great herb that boosts your immune system as well as offering multiple health benefits.

Several research studies have recorded and reported on the effectiveness of olive leaf extract in several different clinical trials. For example the New York University School of Medicine has completed definitive tests that show that olive leaf extract is able to change the pathways of HIV type infections and may even reverse these conditions. 

Research has also been done regarding olive leaf's s antioxidant benefits and shows that it possesses extremely high antioxidative qualities. It is a safe and valuable herb for not only strengthening the immune system but for providing anti bacterial and anti-viral effects. It should always be included in nutritionally complete, science-based supplements aimed at full body protection, superior antioxidant protection and overall wellness.

Bilberry Extract

Bilberry is a very expensive ingredient for supplement manufacturers to include so you usually only see it in the best vitamin supplements (at a maximum potency of 25%). Bilberry targets the health of your eyes by protecting against Macular Degeneration which is the #1 cause of blindness.

This is well established in dozens of independent studies. When comparing supplements be sure to check that they contain standardized bilberry extract and not bilberry powder which is very weak (and wasn't used in the studies). 

Clinical evidence has shown that bilberry can:

  • Enhance your night time vision
  • Reduce chronic visual fatigue
  • Improve near sightedness
  • Help protect against macular degeneration

The bioflavonoids in bilberry help to strengthen capillary walls and protect capillaries from damage while the naturally high levels of tannic acid, cinnamic acids and isoflavones offer additional eye benefits .

Black Cumin Extract

Black cumin is a key medicinal herb. It is reported to have been used for over 2000 years.

Recordings mention it as far back as 1400 years. Black Cumin seed is used for treating gastrointestinal conditions including gas, colic, diarrhea, dysentery, constipation and hemorrhoids. It is also used for respiratory conditions including asthma, allergies, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, flu and congestion. Additionally, it is used as an anti-hypertensive, immuno-protectant and anti-cancer agent. 

In allergic conditions Black Cumin seed may have antihistamine effects. Preliminary evidence suggests it may help minimize chemotherapy-induced decreases in hemoglobin and leukocyte counts. Black Cumin may be beneficial as an anticancer agent because according to preliminary studies it may inhibit stomach tumors, carcinoma and Ehrlich ascites carcinoma.

Ginger Extract

Ginger is another wonderful medicinal herb with a wide range of medical benefits. It has been found to be more effective than drugs at treating motion sickness and nausea. Ginger is useful in alleviating gastrointestinal distress, including nausea of pregnancy (powder). Recent studies have found that Ginger lowers blood cholesterol and reduces blood clotting. 

Ginger has been shown to have significant effects against inflammation and platelet aggregation, important in cardiovascular health and arthritic conditions.

Some researchers speculate that certain constituents of ginger might inhibit cyclooxygenase (COX), important in pain relief. Ginger has been shown to relieve pain, improve joint mobility, decrease swelling and morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger is also a very effective antibiotic agent and strong antioxidant.

Gotu Kola Extract

Gotu Kola is used for reducing fatigue, improving memory, venous insufficiency including varicose veins, circulation, wound healing and increasing longevity.

Gotu Kola is also used for memory loss and as an aphrodisiac. The triterpenoid saponins in Gotu Kola seem to be involved in wound healing and decreasing venous pressure in venous insufficiency, whilst the asiaticoside and madecassoside have anti-inflammatory activity.

Gotu Kola extracts also seem to have antibacterial activity in vitro against various bacteria such as pseudomonas pyocyaneus, trichoderma mentagrophytes and entamoeba histolytica, and antiviral activity against herpes simplex type II. There is some interest in using Gotu Kola to treat cancer. Dried powder extracts of Gotu Kola exhibit cytotoxic and anti-tumor properties in preliminary studies.

Hawthorne Berry Extract

Professional grade supplements quite often help users with their high blood pressure and one of the chief ingredients for that is Hawthorne Berry. Hawthorn is a cardiac tonic, used for cardiovascular conditions such as congestive heart failure (CHF), coronary circulation problems and arrhythmias.

It is also used to increase cardiac output reduced by hypertension or pulmonary disease, to treat hypotension (low pressure) and hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia and Buerger's disease. Hawthorn is also used as an antispasmodic, astringent and diuretic. It has also been reported to reduce lipid levels and in addition has antibacterial, spasmolytic and pain relieving effects. A true multi purpose herb.

Milk Thistle Extract

Your liver is one of your largest organs! Milk Thistle (Silymarin) is used as a liver protectant to lessen damage from potentially hepatotoxic drugs and chemicals, chronic inflammatory liver disease and chronic hepatitis. It is also used for loss of appetite and gallbladder complaints.

There is evidence that suggests that Silymarin might have anti-fibrotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and immunomodulating effects that could also be beneficial in cancer. Preliminary evidence indicates that Silymarin constituents might protect against kidney damage. There is some interest in using Silymarin for prostate cancer.

Gender Specific Nutrients - Women

Black Cohosh Extract

This is a powerful medicinal herb used by women. The safest way to re-balance a women’s body is to provide it with specialized nutrients in the form of hormonal precursors.

Black Cohosh is one of the key hormonal precursors.

It is also used as a remedy for headache, non-eruptive measles, gingivitis, arthritic conditions, an antidote for snakebite, as well as for female conditions such as painful menses and difficult childbirth.

This versatile herb is very active in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteo-arthritis, and in muscular and neurological pain. 

Clinical studies have reported positive effects on menopausal and post-menopausal complaints, with a good safety profile and few side effects when using standardized extracts.

Of recent interest is a report that phytoestrogen compounds found in black cohosh and other herbs such as red clover may inhibit the growth of various breast cancer cell lines. Other studies have used breast cancer cell lines to demonstrate the estrogenic activity of black cohosh.

Red Clover Extract

Red Clover is another key hormonal precursor. It can be used to help control menopausal fluctuations naturally, without the use of hormone replacement therapies and dangerous synthetic medications. The more well researched benefits of red clover include:

  • Controlling menstrual cramps
  • Lessening and alleviating menopause conditions such as hot flashes, irritability and night sweats
  • The ability to help with emotional changes associated with menopause

Dong Quai Extract

Dong Quai is an extremely popular medicinal herb. It is used for women's ailments such as premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, irregularity, retarded flow, weakness during the menstrual period and symptoms of menopause. It is also used as a blood purifier, to manage hypertension, rheumatism, ulcers, anemia and constipation, and in the prevention of skin depigmentation, psoriasis and in the treatment of allergic attacks.

Wild Yam Extract

Wild Yam is a wonderful herb for women. It is also a hormonal precursor.

Important MUST READ information regarding wild yam.


Soy Isoflavones are not herbs but I wanted to mention them because they are a fantastic ingredient for women.

Isoflavones (from soy) are thought to protect against cancer.

They are found in soy-based food products. They suppress the production of stress proteins in cells, proteins that otherwise help cancer cells survive destruction by the immune system.

They are antioxidant and also help lower cholesterol.

Genistein inhibits angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels. When this growth is abnormal it can contribute to the development of cancer.

They are of help in hormone-dependent cancers (breast and prostate cancer), autoimmune conditions, high cholesterol, menopause, osteoporosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia and vaginitis.

Gender Specific Support Nutrients - Men

Beta Sitosterol

Beta Sitosterol is a plant sterol with a chemical structure similar to cholesterol. Beta Sitosterol inhibits intestinal absorption of cholesterol by competing for the limited space in mixed micelles; cholesterol absorption is decreased by around 50%.

Beta Sitosterol is used for coronary heart disease and hypercholesterolemia, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis, and gallstones. It is also used for enhancing sexual activity and for preventing colon cancer.

Beta Sitosterol is significantly more potent in treating BHP (enlarged prostate) than the other well know prostate nutrients Saw Palmetto and Pygeum so look for generous doses of at least 100 mg.

Corn Silk Extract

Corn silk is used to treat urinary disorders and is a diuretic for congestive heart failure. It is also used to treat diabetes and for hypertension.. It has shown to be effective in treating acute chronic inflammation of the urinary system. The extract of the pollen is used for dealing with prostate problems.

In Chinese medicine it is used as a treatment for water retention.


Lycopene is not a herb but is sourced from plants and is a critical ingredient for treating male health conditions.

Lycopene is a Carotenoid (a phytonutrient), which is used for preventing atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

It is also used to treat prostate cancer and asthma.

High lycopene plasma levels from dietary intake seem to reduce prostate cancer risk by 83% compared with men with low plasma lycopene levels. Dietary lycopene and other carotenoids are used to prevent lung cancer.

There is epidemiological evidence that consumption of lycopene from foods (12 mg per day or more for men, and 6.5 mg per day or more for women) decreases the risk of lung cancer in non-smoking men aged 40 to 75, and non-smoking women aged 30 to 55.

Lycopene has the most potent antioxidant activity of any common carotenoid.

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is an extremely popular herb used to treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), as a mild diuretic, an anti-inflammatory and as an antiseptic.

Saw Palmetto is also used to improve sexual vigor and as an aphrodisiac. In combination with the other herbs and plant derived nutrients above Saw Palmetto is used to treat prostate cancer. It is definitely an ingredient we men want in our vitamin supplements.

The Supplement That Gets My Vote

‘Total Balance’ from the new Zealand based 'Xtend-Life' company is a new generation, multi nutrient health supplement offering unmatched health and wellness benefits - not only from a wide range of high potency, standardized herbal extracts, but also from many other potent ingredients including (most importantly) many disease preventing phytonutrients.

Total Balance contains all but one of the ingredients listed above and much more! (No Milk Thistle)

View The Total Balance range

There are 7 different versions in the Total Balance range which was formulated by a world renowned bio-scientist - Prof. Dr. A Munem Daoud PhD., MSc., ND,. Dr Munem, who has been listed in the 'Scientist Who's Who in America list',  has been hired by governments around the globe to create complex natural formulas. This includes brain formulas for the NASA space program - quite an achievement.

Total Balance Women’s Plus contains 14 standardized herbal extracts!

Total Balance Men’s Plus contains 13 standardized herbal extracts!

But Total Balance is far more than just a herbal nutrition supplement! 

There are a WHOPPING 83 - 97 ingredients 

Which target EVERY organ and system in your body, including your brain, to support overall wellness, slow your aging process, supply superior antioxidant protection and treat ,prevent and even reverse chronic disease!

Each tablet contains:

  • Dozens of potent Phytonutrients

  • Standardized herbal extracts

  • Full range of Amino acids

  • Standardized Active Enzymes

  • Crucial Cofactors

  • Specific Female and Male Support Nutrients

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals

  • Trace elements

  • Numerous 'Specialty' nutrients targeting specific organs and systems

  • Potent immunity blend - a formula within a formula

If you are interested in doing further research you may find my vitamin supplements comparisons of interest.  These comparisons will show you exactly  how Total Balance shapes up against other very well-known, market leading multi-nutrient vitamin supplements and why I both use it and recommend it throughout my site.

Nutritional Supplements and Herbs – Resources

  1. Herbal roulette. Consumer Reports. Nov 1995:698-705

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