Dietary and Herbal Supplements


Dietary supplements are vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances meant to improve your diet. They can come as pills, capsules, powders, and liquids. Supplements do not have to go through the testing that drugs do.

Some supplements can play an important role in health. For example, pregnant women can take the vitamin folic acid to prevent certain birth defects in their babies. Taking supplements can also be a type of complementary and integrative medicine.

To take a supplement as safely as possible,

  • Tell your doctor about any dietary supplements you use
  • Do not take a bigger dose than the label recommends
  • Stop taking it if you have side effects
  • Read trustworthy information about the supplement

An herb is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor or therapeutic properties. Herbal medicine products are dietary supplements that people take to improve their health. Many herbs have been used for a long time for claimed health benefits. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants. However, some can cause health problems, some are not effective and some may interact with other drugs you are taking.

To use an herbal product as safely as possible,

  • Consult your doctor first
  • Do not take a bigger dose than the label recommends
  • Take it under the guidance of a trained medical professional
  • Be especially cautious if you are pregnant or nursing

Source: MedlinePlus

Note: This topic was prepared to help consumers find reliable health resources on the web. This site is not responsible for the information on other sites. The information here — and on all websites — is not intended to be a substitute for care given to you by a health professional.

Recommended Reading

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
This website, available in English and Spanish, provides detailed information about dietary and herbal supplements, including what they are, why people take them, getting science-based information, taking them safely, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and new research.

Herbal Supplements, Mayo Clinic
The Mayo Clinic provides comprehensive articles about choosing and using dietary and herbal supplements and answers questions about specific supplements.

Local Resources

Poudre River Public Library District
Search the library collection for books about nutritional supplements, or use the library's health, sciences and technology databases.

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