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Top Herbal Supplements You've Never Heard Of: Part 2

From an anti-inflammatory fungus grown in the Chinese mountains to marshmallow root (yes, that's a thing), we're continuing our breakdown of the top herbal supplements you've never heard of. Read part 1 here.

1. FENUGREEK

What is it? Fenugreek is an herb that has been cultivated in the Mediterranean for more than 6,000 years. Its leaves and seeds are often used as seasoning, as they taste similar to maple syrup. It is also known as Greek Hay.

What are its benefits?

*Digestive support- Fenugreek's anti-inflammatory properties may provide relief for an upset stomach, particularly in those with ulcerative colitis, and its soluble fiber content can relieve constipation. (x)

*Heart health- Research suggests that fenugreek may lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as lowering blood sugar those with diabetes. (x) (x)

*Skin treatment- Fenugreek has often been used as a topical skin treatment. The seeds contain saponins, compounds that possess steroidal qualities that may reduce inflammation and irritation in those with skin conditions such as eczema, ulcers, and rashes. (x)

*Boost strength- In one study, researchers administered a blend of creatine and fenugreek to participants in order to measure their strength and body composition. At the end of the study, those who took the creatine/fenugreek mix significantly increased their lean muscle mass and strength. (x)

2. KAVA KAVA

kava_leaves_006

What is it? Kava (also known as kava kava or 'awa) is a shrub whose roots and heart-shaped leaves are used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes in the Pacific Islands.

What are its benefits?

*Promotes calm and relaxation- Kava contains kavalactones, phytochemicals that may relieve symptoms associated with anxiety by affecting serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. (x) (x)

*Insomnia relief- Kava has been used as a natural sedative for centuries. Though more research is needed, the kavalactones within the plant are believed to be responsible for its calming effect. (x)

*Immune support- Flavokawains are chemical compounds that occur naturally in kava. Preliminary studies suggest they may boost immune function by stimulating white blood cells. (x)

3. MARSHMALLOW ROOT

H-Marshmallow

What is it? Marshmallow is a flowering plant. Its roots have been used in medicine and in sweet confections dating back to Ancient Egypt. Modern marshmallows are sugar-based treats made with water, corn starch and gelatin, and while they were originally made with the roots from the plant, they no longer contain any actual plant extract.

What are its benefits? 

*May ease cough and cold symptoms- Multiple studies have shown that marshmallow root is one of the most effective natural cough remedies. A natural anti-inflammatory, it may reduce cough and sore throat by soothing irritated mucous membranes. (x) (x)

*Skin treatment- Marshmallow root stimulates cytokines, molecules that signal the immune system to respond to areas of irritation or inflammation. As a result, it has been shown in clinical trials to reduce inflammation associated with sunburn and skin conditions like eczema, boils, and dermatitis. (x)

*Digestive relief- The leaves and the root of the marshmallow plant contain mucilage, a thick gummy substance that, when mixed with water, acts as a balm to coat and soothe an upset stomach. (x)

4. PURSLANE 

purslane-flower

What is it? Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) is a succulent native to India and the Middle East. It is also known as little hogweed or verdolaga. While often considered a common weed, purslane is rich in nutrients like omega-3s and beta-carotene, making this unobtrusive little plant an under-appreciated superfood.

What are its benefits? 

*Heart health- Purslane has the highest levels of omega-3s among all the green plants--good news for your heart, because omega-3s are proven to lower trigylcerides, blood pressure, and bad cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. (x)

*Mood booster- Some studies suggest that eating foods high in omega-3s--like purslane--may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. (x)

*Eye health- Purslane contains beta-carotene, a pigment found in many plants that serves as an antioxidant. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which plays a key role in maintaining healthy vision. (x)

*Immune boost- The vitamin A in purslane has also been proven to boost immune response, decreasing the risk of infection. (x)

5. SLIPPERY ELM BARK

Slippery-Elm-Bark

What is it? Slippery elm is a tree native to North America. Fully grown, it can reach over 50 feet in height. Its inner bark has been used as a medicinal remedy for centuries.

What are its benefits? 

*Stomach relief- In one study, researchers gave slippery elm bark to patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), who reported a significant reduction in their symptoms. It has also been found to be effective in treating the symptoms of other inflammatory bowel diseases. Like marshmallow root, slippery elm bark contains mucilage, which coats the stomach and intestines and protects them against excess acidity and irritation. (x) (x)

*Weight management- The New York Chiropractic College conducted a 21-day weight loss study in which participants were given supplements including slippery elm bark. At the end of the study, the participants not only lost weight, but also reduced their bad cholesterol levels. It is thought that since slippery elm aids digestion, it may play a role in regulating weight. (x)

Check out our full selection of herbal supplements to find out which ones are best for you. And don't neglect these unsung supplement heroes--you might miss out on their many health benefits.

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