It may not quite be hysteria, but estimates say that 25% of adult Americans are using herbal supplements. In fact, Mark Blumental, HerbalGram editor and American Botanical Council executive director says it’s the largest sales increase in the mainstream market in recent years.
What’s driving this herbal interest? Simply put, people are taking proactive steps in personal, natural healthcare. That includes an aging population who wants to stay or get healthy, an increased awareness of drug side effects, and those with limited or no medical insurance.
The top-selling herbs of 2009 were aloe vera, flaxseed oil, wheat or barley grass, acai and turmeric. Other noted herbs include: valerian, saw palmetto, garlic, echinacea, gingko biloba, milk thistle, St. John’s Wort, ginseng, black cohosh, stevia, peppermint, ginger and kava kava.
But that’s not all.
Immune-supporting herb and botanical interest has surged, too. Roy Upton, herbalist and general manager of an herbal facility in Scotts Valley, California, says, “People are realizing they need to support immune defenses rather than wait until they get sick.” Much of the attention to immune health, he says, is geared toward prevention rather than waiting for symptoms to appear. And that’s causing a bump in sales.
For example, in May 2009 sales for elderberry spiked 31% and then in March 2010, this trend continued. In fact, two of the top three selling single herb products were those targeting immune function, according to SPINS data. Overall, elderberry increased more than 49%, says SPINS.
Other immune-supporting herbs to watch for are: Andrographis, isatis, lomatium and astragalus. Andrographis, for example, is a shrub found throughout India and other Asian countries that has been used for immune support. Andrographis consists of 28 species of shrubs, but only a few of its species offer immune support—and Andrographis paniculata is one of the most popular of those.
Additional herbs gaining ground are chia and hemp seeds for their fatty acid-rich content, cinnamon for supporting healthy blood sugar, as well as pomegranate and turmeric—according to Upton.
In short, herbs (and botanicals) have played a part in people’s lives for thousands of years and are still with us today—especially as people are becoming more proactive in taking their health matters into their own hands.
And while it may not be hysteria, there’s a definite surge of interest in herbs and their benefits.