When it comes to your self-care, you’ve probably asked yourself, “What are the best supplements to take?”
Beyond a basic daily multivitamin, it can get confusing to navigate the thousands of products on the market in this category. So many promise so much — ginkgo for memory, acai berry for weight loss, melatonin for sleep, and the list goes on.
“Revenue from vitamin and nutritional supplement production reached nearly 31 billion dollars in the United States in 2018 and the industry is set to add over a billion more in revenue in 2019,” according to a report on Statista.com, a provider of market and consumer data.
If you’re looking for supplements to take as part of your self-care regimen, here’s the lowdown on three of today’s popular selections — how they are believed to work, their potential benefits, and most importantly, what science says about their effectiveness.
(Note: This article is not meant to replace the advice of a physician, chiropractor or other health care provider. These and similar products are not meant to treat or cure any disease. As with any drug or nutritional supplement, check with your health care provider before taking any new supplements — especially if you have an existing medical condition or you are taking other medicines.)
No discussion of hot new supplements is complete without talking about CBD, so we’ll start there.
CBD isn’t new; companies have been creating products with it, such as oils and topicals, for many years. Since CBD is not psychoactive like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, until recently it existed in a legal gray area, especially after states began to legalize medicinal marijuana.
However, the Farm Bill, signed into law last December, legalized the production of industrial hemp, the crop from which CBD is derived. (Marijuana remains federally illegal, though the majority of U.S. states have legalized it for medical or recreational use.)
Since then the market for CBD products of all types — edibles, oils, tinctures and topicals — has exploded. CNBC has reported that the value of the CBD industry will reach $20 billion by 2022. People reach for it for dealing with a range of issues, such as combating anxiety, getting better sleep and relieving pain.
Cannabis plants have been cultivated and used for medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years, but CBD was not discovered until the 20th century; the original paper about its isolation and structure was published on Jan. 1, 1940, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
How CBD works in the body is not yet completely understood; however, it is known to work in synergy with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, which naturally produces cannabinoids. These bind to receptors to regulate many bodily functions.
CB1 receptors, found mostly in the brain, work to regulate emotion, coordination, appetite and more; CB2 receptors, found throughout the body, are involved in regulating pain and inflammation. When CBD enters the body it facilitates the binding of endocannabinoids to CB1 and CB2 receptors, resulting in relaxation, decreased pain and other health benefits.
While anecdotal evidence for CBD’s efficacy is abundant, its body of formal research continues to grow. One 2019 study in Frontiers in Pharmacology looked at CBD’s potential effects on alcohol use disorder (AUD) and found that “CBD reduces alcohol-related steatosis and fibrosis in the liver by reducing lipid accumulation, stimulating autophagy, modulating inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, and by inducing death of activated hepatic stellate cells.”
Another 2019 study suggested CBD could be effective as part of colorectal cancer treatment, while another 2017 study concluded there was “proof in principle” that CBD could help people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Thus far, research has not found negative side effects associated with CBD use, and it is typically marketed as being “safe”; however, anyone taking CBD, especially if they are ingesting it through oils or edibles, should start with a small dose and pay attention to how it makes them feel, then slowly increase. There is not currently any widely recommended dose.
Expect to see more and more CBD-containing products on the market, but do your research before choosing one. Experts recommend finding out as much as you can about a product before buying, and getting answers to these questions:
- How much CBD is in this product?
- Is this a full-spectrum product? (Full-spectrum oils retain all the natural cannabinoids of the hemp plant, often including a trace amount of THC; these products are believed to provide users the most health benefits.)
- Where does the CBD in this product come from? (Does the company have its own farms, or does it source its hemp from other places?)
- Does the company subject its CBD to third-party lab testing?
Next up on our list of hot new supplements to take: turmeric.
A staple of Indian cooking, the curcuminoids in turmeric give curry powder its yellow color. It is also a mainstay of Ayurvedic medicine, where it is used to address fatigue, pain, breathing problems and other issues.
The list of turmeric’s benefits has grown with modern usage. Today, says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), turmeric is also used to fight inflammation in the body, as well as for cancer, arthritis and digestive system issues.
“Turmeric is being touted as a panacea for everything that ails you and indeed, it’s really beneficial,” said Edwards, “but I think one of the most beneficial parts of turmeric is the fact that it stimulates the body’s production of antioxidants in the liver.” These antioxidants, he explained, could be consumed by themselves in supplement form or through diet, but it would be nearly impossible to get the amount you need through these avenues alone.
“Consuming turmeric … gives us the full benefit of antioxidants without trying to take isolates that really aren’t built to work in our bodies,” he said.
Turmeric is also good for fighting non-muscular inflammation in the body, such as vascular inflammation, he added.
Unlike many supplements that are largely untested by science, turmeric has a substantial amount of research dedicated to it, including research involving human study participants.
One June 2019 review in Advances in Nutrition, for example, looked at randomized, controlled trials involving adults with metabolic diseases, to analyze the effects of turmeric and curcuminoids on blood lipid levels; high blood lipid levels are a known risk factor for serious cardiovascular disease.
While the authors emphasized the need for more research in this area to bear out the findings of their systematic review and meta-analysis, they concluded that “turmeric and curcuminoids can significantly modulate blood lipids in adults with metabolic diseases.”
Another 2019 study in Biofactors, “Medicinal plants in traumatic brain injury: Neuroprotective mechanisms revisited,” tested several herbs, including turmeric, and found their effects caused a significant decrease in neuron injury. Results of a 2019 study also found turmeric to have antimicrobial properties, finding it effective for killing common periodontal bacteria.
Next, we’ll discuss why magnesium is a beneficial supplement to take.
If you’re looking for a supplement to take that helps proper nerve function and better sleep, consider adding magnesium to your self-care regimen. It plays a big role in cellular metabolism, so the body naturally consumes large amounts of it when under stress, such as that involved in strenuous exercise. It can be difficult to consume enough magnesium through diet alone, especially if you are very physically active, so taking a supplement can be beneficial.
“We know that dietary magnesium intake is important to health care and wellness professionals,” said John Troup, PhD, vice president of clinical science, education and innovation for Standard Process, a company that manufactures dietary supplements. “Whether it’s because of poor eating habits or the fact that food is often grown in mineral-depleted soil, more than half of Americans face magnesium deficiency challenges.”
He explained that magnesium contributes to flexibility and helps prevent injury by loosening tight muscles, which is especially important for massage therapists as they consider their self-care protocols. Without enough magnesium, muscles cannot properly relax, possibly causing cramps. Signs of low magnesium may include mild headaches, muscle twitches, fatigue, mood change, brain fog, cramps, muscle weakness and glucose management difficulties.
One review of magnesium research, published in the journal Magnesium Research in 2016, found magnesium effective for dealing with metabolic syndrome, the cluster of symptoms that often leads to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Another looked at magnesium supplementation as a way of fighting inflammation, and found it could be effective in reducing chronic low-grade inflammation (Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2017).
Get Help Choosing Which Supplements to Take
CBD, turmeric and magnesium products represent only a fraction of the thousands of supplements on the market today. If you’re trying to decide what supplements to take, it’s a good idea to talk with your physician, chiropractor or other health care provider. They can help you choose what will work for your optimal health and well-being.
About the Author:
Allison M. Payne is the associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and Chiropractic Economics.