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What is a dietary supplement?

As defined by Congress in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which became law in 1994, a dietary supplement is a product (other than tobacco) 
  • that is intended to supplement the diet;
  • contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins; 
  • minerals; herbs or other botanicals; amino acids; and other substances) or their constituents;
  • is intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid; andis  labeled on the front panel as being a dietary supplement.

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Herbs at a glance

What are herbs?
An herb (also called a botanical) is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor, and/or therapeutic properties. An herbal supplement is a type of dietary supplement that contains herbs, either alone or in mixtures

People have used herbs as medicine since ancient times. For example, aloe vera’s use can be traced back to arly Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings.Known as the “plant of  immortality,” it was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. Lavender, native to the Mediterranean region, was used in ancient Egypt as part of the process for mummifying bodies. Chasteberry, the fruit of the chaste tree, has long been used by women to ease menstrual problems and to stimulate the production of breast milk. Cat’s claw, which grows wild in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon rainforest, has been used for centuries to prevent and treat disease. Hoodia, a flowering, cactus-like plant native to the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, has been used by the Kalahari Bushmen to reduce hunger and thirst during long hunts."

Herbs at a Glance

Herbs at a Glance is a series of fact sheets that provides basic information about specific herbs or botanicals—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information.

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/NIH_Herbs_at_a_Glance.pdf

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