4 Natural Supplements That Are as Powerful as Drugs

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turmeric powder spice.

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Most supplements haven’t been proved to be effective, and some may not benefit you at all.

Still, there are exceptions. In fact, some supplements are comparable to pharmaceutical drugs.

Here are four natural, health-boosting supplements that are as powerful as drugs.

1. Berberine

Berberine is a bioactive substance extracted from certain plants.

It isn’t well known but may be one of the most powerful supplements on earth.

It provides various health benefits but is particularly effective at lowering blood sugar levels (1).

These effects are thought to be due to numerous mechanisms. In particular, berberine is believed to reduce glucose production in your liver and improve insulin sensitivity (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source).

Studies show that taking berberine can lower blood sugar levels to a similar extent as the popular diabetes drug metformin (4Trusted Source).

In a study in 116 people with type 2 diabetes, the substance reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 20% and HbA1c (a marker for long-term blood sugar levels) by 12% (5Trusted Source).

Berberine is also very effective at improving other health markers.

It lowers triglyceride and blood pressure levels, as well as total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease (16Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

Berberine has also been shown to have antibacterial effects and may protect against heart failure and cancer (9Trusted Source10Trusted Source11Trusted Source).

If you want to give berberine a try, you can find it in health stores and online.

However, keep in mind that this substance is very powerful and has a range of biological effects.

Use it with caution and consult your healthcare provider — especially if you’re currently taking any other medication.

SUMMARY Berberine is a powerful supplement. For example, it drastically lowers blood sugar levels and improves most major risk factors for heart disease.

2. Curcumin

Turmeric is a popular spice known for giving curry its yellow color.

It has been used as a medicinal herb in India for thousands of years.

Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful substance that has been studied thoroughly in recent years (12Trusted Source).

Curcumin fights inflammation at the molecular level by blocking an inflammatory signalling molecule called NF-kB (1314Trusted Source).

It’s so effective that it has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs in some studies — without any major side effects (15Trusted Source16Trusted Source).

For example, in a study in 45 people with rheumatoid arthritis, 500 mg of curcumin per day was more effective than the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (17Trusted Source).

Curcumin also has numerous other health benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant, can improve heart health, and may help prevent cancer (18Trusted Source19Trusted Source20Trusted Source).

According to one study, curcumin may also help fight depression. In fact, it proved as effective as the antidepressant drug prozac (21Trusted Source).

Nevertheless, curcumin is poorly absorbed, so it’s best to get a supplement that also contains piperine/bioperine, which has been shown to enhance its absorption by 2,000% (22Trusted Source).

These supplements are widely available in health stores and online.

SUMMARY Curcumin is the biologically active agent in turmeric. It’s a very powerful anti-inflammatory substance that may help fight numerous diseases.

3. Red yeast rice

Statin drugs are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world.

They inhibit the production of cholesterol in your liver, leading to significantly reduced blood cholesterol levels.

Interestingly, an extract of a type of fermented rice called red yeast rice may have similar effects.

It contains small amounts of monacolin K, which is the active ingredient in the statin drug Lovastatin (23).

According to a review of 93 studies, red yeast rice lowered total cholesterol by 34 mg/dL on average, LDL (bad) cholesterol by 28 mg/dL, and triglycerides by 35 mg/dL. Plus, it increased HDL (good) cholesterol by 6 mg/dL (24Trusted Source).

What’s more, in a study in 5,000 people in China who had experienced heart attacks, red yeast rice reduced the risk of subsequent heart attacks by 45% and the risk of dying during the study period by 33% (25Trusted Source).

Still, the amount of the active ingredient in supplements can vary up to 100-fold depending on the brand (26Trusted Source).

Due to the potency of monacolin K, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that red yeast rice products containing this substance should be considered a drug rather than a supplement (27Trusted Source).

Some manufacturers try to evade these regulations by selling red yeast rice supplements that only contain trace amounts of monacolin K.

Therefore, these products may not offer the same benefits as true red yeast rice.

For this reason — and due to potential side effects — you should ask your healthcare provider to help you find a high-quality supplement from a reputable manufacturer.

SUMMARY Red yeast rice contains a substance that’s the active ingredient in the statin drug Lovastatin. It can reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attacks and death in people who already have heart disease.

4. Garlic

Garlic is a popular ingredient in cuisines worldwide, but it has also been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years, including by the Greeks and Romans (28Trusted Source).

The main effects of garlic are due to one of its active compounds, allicin, which is highly beneficial for heart health (29Trusted Source).

Studies show that garlic can lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10–15%, on average (30Trusted Source31Trusted Source32Trusted Source).

Even more importantly, aged garlic extract can significantly lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and early death (33Trusted Source34Trusted Source).

In people with elevated levels, garlic can lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) by 8.4 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by 7.3 mm Hg, on average (35Trusted Source).

In one study in 210 people with high blood pressure, aged garlic extract was even more effective than the blood-pressure-lowering drug atenolol (36Trusted Source).

Garlic also appears to boost immune function and fight the common cold.

In one study, it reduced the number of colds by 63% and the duration of cold symptoms by 70% — from 5 to 1.5 days, on average (37Trusted Source).

You can buy garlic supplements in stores and online. Supplements containing aged garlic extract are available as well.

SUMMARY Garlic has a wide range of biological effects. It can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and help fight the common cold.

The bottom line

Supplements, no matter how effective, can never replace a healthy lifestyle with real food, exercise, and good sleep.

That said, the above supplements may aid people who want a natural health boost.

Keep in mind that these supplements are incredibly powerful and should be consumed carefully.

If you have a medical condition or take any medications, consult with your healthcare provider before trying these substances.