Most supplements haven’t been proven 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 4 natural, health-boosting supplements that are as powerful as drugs.
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.
Studies show that taking berberine can lower blood sugar levels to a similar extent as the popular diabetes drug metformin (4).
Berberine is also very effective at improving other health markers.
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 medications.
Berberine is a powerful supplement. For example, it drastically lowers blood sugar levels and improves most major risk factors for heart disease.
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 (12).
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 (17).
According to one study, curcumin may also help fight depression. In fact, it proved as effective as the antidepressant drug Prozac (21).
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% (22).
These supplements are widely available in health stores and online.
Curcumin is the biologically active agent in turmeric. It’s a very powerful anti-inflammatory substance that may help fight numerous diseases.
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 (24).
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% (25).
Still, the amount of the active ingredient in supplements can vary up to 100-fold depending on the brand (26).
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 (27).
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.
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.
The main effects of garlic are due to one of its active compounds, allicin, which is highly beneficial for heart health (29).
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 (35).
In one study in 210 people with high blood pressure, aged garlic extract was even more effective than the blood-pressure-lowering drug atenolol (36).
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 (37).
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.